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New data science course gives students skills to explore real-world issues

Published: July 15, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University offers a new course this fall designed to give students in any major the skills they need to ask questions and explore problems using data.

"We are immersed in data every day. It governs our lives in seen and unseen ways. Understanding how data is used, and being able to use it yourself, is a valuable skill for your life and for your career in many professions," said Dr. Martin Mohlenkamp, professor and chair of Mathematics in the College of Arts & Sciences.

"In this course we also delve into social and legal issues surrounding data analysis, including issues of privacy and data ownership," he added.

Mohlenkamp provided examples of topics the class will examine:

  • In the first project, students study the relationship between population growth, life expectancy, child mortality, fertility, and poverty.
  • In the second project, they consider causes, treatment, and prevention of cardiovascular disease.
  • In the third project, the class builds a movie classifier that tries to tell if a movie is a comedy or thriller, using only the frequency of words in the script.

Designed for students from any major

MATH 2530X Foundations of Data Science is designed for entry-level students from any major. No programming experience is needed. MATH placement level 2 is sufficient prerequisite.

"In this course, you'll get hands-on experience working with real economic, geographic, social, and other types of data. You will learn powerful computational tools and ways of thinking. With the knowledge you gain in this course, you'll be able to explore problems in any field you're interested in," Mohlenkamp said.

Foundations of Data Science gives students three perspectives: inferential thinking, computational thinking, and real-world relevance. The course teaches critical concepts and skills in computer programming and statistical inference, in conjunction with hands-on analysis of real-world datasets. The course includes weekly computer labs and three projects.

Mohlenkamp is offering the course, based on materials shared by the Foundations of Data Science course at the University of California at Berkeley.