“Introduction to Data Journalism,” the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas’ second Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC) in Spanish, came to an end last Friday after a one-week extension. The course, which attracted almost 4,000 students from over 60 countries, was characterized by high participation across all its platforms and generated so much interest that students requested extra time to continue exploring the course’s tools and discussions.
The course, taught by Argentine journalist and data journalism expert Sandra Crucianelli, began on May 13 and concluded on June 21. The course was initially schedule to end on June 16.
Hundreds of students continued to register after the beginning of the course, which started with 3,096 students from 51 nations and finished with 3,949 from 62 countries.
Spain was the country with the most participants with 504, followed by Mexico with 496, Brazil (278), Argentina (265), Colombia (215), Venezuela (200), Peru (157) and Chile (106). Students also came from countries like Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Canada, United States, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, Portugal, United Kingdom, Poland, Mozambique, Israel, Japan and the Philippines.
The course had high participation on both its Facebook page, where students are still sharing their projects and other examples of data journalism, and on the course’s discussion forums, where participants from different occupations and parts of the world held long exchanges with each other.
Student María José Santos, who works for an information and communication technologies consulting firm in Spain, said the course underscored the opportunities this area of journalism offers to bring more transparency to the institutions in her country and that “data journalism is not the future, but the present of this profession.”
“The topic in itself has been fascinating and Sandra and her assistants’ guidance has been constant, which made the course dynamic and very participative,” Santos said.
Paula Freitas, a journalist currently working at the United Kingdom’s National Health System, used web
scraping techniques that she learned in the course to put together an exercise in which she visualized the location on the globe of 250 of her classmates.
“With the Internet and the growth in the volume of data, it is clear that journalists must know and take advantage of not only the technology, but also the opportunities that come with this volume of information,” Freitas said. “The course on data journalism showed exactly where our attention should be, what techniques we should use and how to encourage readers to participate and explore.”
Tatiana C. Velásquez, another participant and an editor at newspaper El Tiempo in Colombia, put together and shared on the course’s Facebook page a list of resources on mathematics for journalists. Other participants, like Mexican journalist Gubidcha Matus, who collaborates in the website elrespetablechiapas.com, said they had plans to apply what they’ve learned at their publications.
A web scraping exercise produced by course participant Paula Freitas. The map shows the location of 250 of Freitas’ classmates.
“Introdution for Data Journalism” covered the basic concepts of data journalism, an overview of the current state of the practice around the world, new digital tools for searching and data mining, an introduction to math and statistics for journalists, visual information handling techniques, and best practices in the development of news apps.
The instructor for the course was award-winning journalist Sandra Crucianelli, who has specialized in investigative and precision journalism, with an emphasis in digital sources and database journalism. Since 2004 she has taught several courses through the Knight Center’s Distance Learning platform. She is also a member of the advising council for the Center for Digital Journalism at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico, an instructor at the Media Center in Florida International University (FIU) and founder of Solo Local.Info, a project in hyperlocal digital journalism. She is the author of the book “eDigital Tools for Journalists,” published in Spanish and Portuguese by the Knight Center. She is a Knight International Journalism Fellow that has researched the journalism applications of open data in the last two years.
“Introduction to Data Journalism” was the second course in Spanish that the Knight Center has offered through its successful MOOC journalism program.
“How to Improve Electoral Coverage,” the Knight Center’s first MOOC in Spanish, was taught by acclaimed Colombian journalist María Teresa Ronderos and concluded on April 2013. The course had 1,772 participants from 45 countries.
The first Knight Center MOOC was “Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization,” taught last year by instructor Alberto Cairo with more than 2,000 students. The course was so well received that the Knight Center offered a second edition this year, identical to the first. It started on Jan. 12, with 5,000 students from 133 countries and concluded on Feb. 23.
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was created in 2002 by Professor Rosental Alves at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism thanks to a generous donation from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has been supporting it continually. The Center also receives major contributions from the Open Society Foundations and The University of Texas at Austin. The Center’s main goal is to help journalists in Latin American and the Caribbean to improve the quality of journalism in their countries.