By Dr. Karl Ho, Research and Statistical Support Services Manager
Learn SAS....for free
Do you ever have a New Year's Resolution like learning a new programming language or an application? Well, I do, every year. If only I have the resolve and resources every year for me to make my resolution list shorter. By reading this article, you will find out how to make your effort lighter while realizing the wish of learning SAS, at a really affordable cost: free. Opportunities to learn SAS abound, thanks to the Internet. In this article I will list all available channels via which you can learn SAS programming by yourself. After all, it is free.
ACS Short Courses
First and most effectively, in my opinion, are the Short Courses. Academic Computing Services (ACS) offers Short Courses on SAS programming in every semester. The nine-hour, three-part training program is designed to provide a thorough training from novice to intermediate SAS programmers. The major factor is the hands-on exercises in each class in which students apply what have been learned in programming and debugging techniques. Consult with the ACS on-line schedule or contact the ACS documentation manager Claudia Lynch (firstname.lastname@example.org or 565-4068) for information on the SAS series.
In case you can't attend the courses due to schedule conflicts, check my class notes at the RSS web site. Note that I update the notes very often in order to incorporate the latest update and new features.
When I was a graduate student, I was eager to learn a new statistical package other than SPSS. I learned that SAS is a real charm so I came to Panu (who was in my current position then) for help. I later found I couldn't buy a copy of the software like other packages. Even if I can, I need to get a box of 30 3.5" floppy diskettes, just to install SAS/Base! Thanks to our new agreement with the company, UNT students can buy a full version copy at the UNT Bookstore at just $25. Well, the nice thing is you can load the software and start learning from the well-designed OnlineTutor software. Fire off the software and choose Help and Books and Training. Select OnlineTutor and you will be prompted an HTML version of the SAS Programming tutorial:
Figure 1: SAS OnlineTutor: Table of Contents
The tutorial will walk you through the basics of the SAS system and SAS programming rudiments. You will have to take a quiz at the end, which is kind of fun to me. The OnlineTutor focuses on SAS/Base only. That said, training resources for other modules can be accessible in other sources.
To save more trees, SAS packs hundreds of hard-copy manuals into HTML-based CD-ROMs now. Also, you may look up any syntax and sample programs at SAS' publicly accessible site. The latest OnlineDoc for version 8 that carries almost all SAS manuals is available at the SAS website You would need to register at:
to access the contents.
Figure 2. SAS OnlineDoc on SAS web site
Free online tutorials
One more source for learning SAS is undoubtedly the SAS Website. Recently, the company offers some free online tutorials which were once part of their sales items:
Some of the tutorials I would recommend are:
This is a must read for all beginners or those who want to have a quick brush up on the SAS basics. It has topics ranging from how to manage the SAS data and library to creating a surface plot and analyzing data using SAS/Analyst. It is a very practical and great starter.
This GIS tutorial goes through some basics in spatial data and spatial analysis. Great for those who want to take advantage of the mapping capability of SAS system. Remember that the map data sets are sizeable and may eat up hard disk space very fast. This tutorial comes with a TIGER data set for demonstrating the GIS features.
This tutorial is a bit lengthy. SAS recommends an hour and I think it is well worth the time for beefing up your understanding of database management system in SAS and some useful tips on multidimensional database. It opens my eyes in understanding database system.
EIS is a big field and one of the hottest in the corporate job market. Enhance your knowledge of a corporate-wide information delivery system with this tutorial. It gives concisely some basics on creating and managing an EIS in SAS or other systems.
Well, I can't say these free resources cover everything you need to learn about SAS. But for me, they are really helpful immediate resources, especially when I need some help in completing certain jobs (including writing the SAS Corner). If you need more comprehensive and intensive training, I recommend the courses offered by the company. SAS' Dallas headquarter offers training courses on a regular basis. Consult the Dallas Website for scheduling and pricing.
Despite all these goodies, one caveat is do not harbor the thought that SAS is cheap and easy. According to my experience, it is the contrary. The learning curve is steep at the beginning and most beginners will give up at the very first stage complaining "SAS is not SPSS." It takes time and lots of practice to handle this big system and make it serve your purpose. Therefore, my point is back to square one: attend the ACS Short Courses. Happy learning.