Econ classes teaching open source software to meet industry demand

College of Business Department News

With an eye to the changing skillsets needed in the industry, JMU’s economics department has begun teaching R, an open source software package that is currently challenging expensive proprietary software in business, industry and government.

“R has been widely followed in the statistical analysis community for years and yet only recently took off as a mainstream application,” said William C. Wood, economics department head. “I was skeptical about teaching our students free software, but the job market’s verdict on R is overwhelming.”

The department’s Executive Advisory Board reported that employees proficient in R were eagerly sought in their companies and others in the market, reinforcing the decision to develop methods to effectively teach it and prepare graduates for data analysis in their careers.

“R is based on rock-solid code but it can be a challenge to learn,” Wood said. Stepping in to develop methods and materials were two JMU professors of economics, Andre Neveu and Vipul Bhatt, who created a series of tutorial videos. “Students have responded well to the videos,” Wood said, “and in project groups they quickly come up to speed on basic operations in R.”

The tutorial videos are part of a virtual econometrics lab website being developed by Joanne Doyle, professor of economics. The site, at, collects materials to help students apply statistical methods to economic data.

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Published: Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Last Updated: Monday, January 8, 2024

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