Course Spotlight: Data Visualization Master’s Course

Author: Staff

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An Advanced, Interactive Immersion into Visual Storytelling with Data

All data has a story to tell. As a data scientist, your role is to find that story. Finding—and ultimately, telling—stories with data involves more than data collection. It requires you to home in on patterns, analyze causes, correlations, and risks, pose questions, identify problems, and provide solutions. Sometimes, telling a story with data means interrogating it and ensuring it’s used ethically, bringing a human element to data science. In the end, though, telling a story with data means communicating it to an outside audience, and that’s where data visualization comes in.

In Notre Dame’s Master’s in Data Science program, you’ll learn advanced data visualization in a highly interactive format. Over the course of five weeks in the fourth semester of the program, you’ll cover the nuances of visualizing data for various audiences. Drawing on the skills and knowledge you’ve gained from other courses in data science, including data analysis, making charts and graphs, and programming, you’ll work with your fellow students to create a real, usable dashboard.

“Data themselves are often sterile, so it’s hard to use them to convince an audience solely off a spreadsheet or a table. But when you put data into a more visual format, it helps others interpret the story more easily. If you’re interested in ways to take your data beyond just the machine-readable version of itself, a data visualization master’s course is crucial.” – Matthew Sisk, Data Visualization Faculty

The Human Side of Visualizing Data

The best data scientists are three-dimensional, meaning they have technical aptitude, communication skills, and strong ethics. The data visualization master’s course fosters your development in each of these areas. The course teaches you “hard skills” in design and coding, but also pushes you to make ethical considerations as you’re visualizing geographic data, text data, and other types of data sets. You might discuss the ethics of using data sourced from deleted social media posts, for example, or investigate inequities in census data. You’ll also challenge existing visualizations, analyze visual choices that influence an audience’s interpretation of data, and assess the accuracy of the data represented. Whether you’re in the early stages of data collection or you’re visualizing graph data that’s already sourced, this course challenges you to balance ethics and your end goals.

Visualizing Data for Varying Audiences

In our advanced and interactive class in data visualization, visualizing graph data, text data, and geographic data is only the start. Although they are essential tools for communicating data, Notre Dame’s data visualization master’s course goes beyond creating pie charts and bar graphs. This class will ask you to consider the various audiences who will encounter your visualizations and adapt your work to fit their needs and capture their attention.

Perhaps you’re visualizing geographic data and need an in-depth breakdown of various demographics for a government official—you’d want that visualization to look different than one you’d share on the same topic on social media, for example. If you’re visualizing text data to communicate how customers are experiencing a business’s product, you’d want to adapt that visualization for sales, product developers, and the CEO. The data visualization master’s course helps you develop the expertise you need to tackle these complex tasks.

“In this course, we try to help students realize that there’s no single creation of a visualization that will work for all audiences—you’ll need to know how to project the story to the audience you’re trying to convince with it. The dashboard you’d make for your fellow analysts, for example, would be different than what you’d show a CEO, which would be different than what you’d share on Twitter as part of a debate or policy initiative. At this point in the Master’s in Data Science program, you know how to tell stories with data. In this course, you’ll learn how to adapt the visuals you’re creating to fit into the larger story you want to tell.

Build a Dashboard for Visualizing Data in Real-Life Contexts

One of the most exciting projects in this course is the semester-long project in dashboard building. You’ll work with your classmates over the entire five weeks to create a usable dashboard that helps you visualize insights gathered from raw data. This real-world practice is instrumental in preparing you for a career in data science, and it’s this interactive project that helps set Notre Dame’s data visualization master’s course apart from others.

Along the way, you’ll benefit from a blend of live classes and asynchronous material. This format allows you to interact with your classmates and professor in real time while experiencing the convenience of asynchronous online learning. Like the other courses in the program, the data visualization master’s course is designed to create meaningful connections between you, your classmates, and your professors. The dashboard building project is part of how those connections take shape in this course while offering you experience in data visualization.

Why Else Should You Learn Data Visualization at Notre Dame?

Data visualization is a critical skill for any data scientist. At Notre Dame, we work hard to ensure you build this skill in a way that connects to other facets of data science. You’ll utilize data collection, analysis, and storytelling skills as you learn how to integrate ethics, decision-making, and communication into your approach to data science. In other words, this course, like all the courses in our data science master’s program, helps you develop as a three-dimensional data scientist, putting you a step ahead in the job market.

Want to learn more about becoming a data scientist or why you should choose data science at Notre Dame? Contact us or download the data science program guide for more information.