Friday, September 24, 2010

CEDO 540 - Decision Making using Data - Week Two

The second week of CEDO 540 - Decision Making using Data finds us exploring terminology related to data acquisition.  The class was asked to distinguish between the terms census, sampling, opinion, marketing research, quantitative research, paid survey and questionnaire.  I took a long look at sampling and questionnaires and found that both need to be carefully thought-out before their execution.  Sampling needs to acquire data that is representative of the population and questionnaires should be carefully crafted to be clear and free of ambivalence.

I completed an exercise where I took statistical data from the CDC Web-site and examined data on incidence of deaths in the Mining, Transportation, Construction and Agriculture/Fishing/Forestry industries.  The data was available in Excel format and I had to clean it up a little bit so that I could compute the mean, median and mode and plot the data for the years 1998 through 2006.  The bar chart above shows a steady increase in the deaths per 100 thousand workers in the Agriculture/Fishing/Forestry industry.   Transportation saw a big jump in 2003 and has maintained that plateau since.

I have been enjoying a new site called Capterra which is a great buyer's guide for locating software.  Back in the late 1980's my company subscribed to various publications which reviewed software and provided company profiles.  Capterra has the same idea but it provides an easy to use interface for queries on products and it is free.  Currently, I am using Capterra to search for five survey programs (3 free, 2 paid) as part of the class assignment this week. I really like Capterra and any software publisher should make sure that their products appear in its database.

Friday, September 17, 2010

CEDO 540 - Decision Making using Data - Week One

After a four week break from the Master's Education in Instructional Technology (MEIT) program I am well-rested and living in my new digs near Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin.   Thankfully the bandwidth is wide and relatively free from interruptions in service.  As I knock on wood following that last statement, I reflect on the first week of our latest course CEDO 540 Decision Making Using Data Collection & Analysis.  

In a nutshell we are starting-off by looking at fundamentals of statistics.  Over the past years I have been more of a statistics consumer than a creator.  Sure, I majored in Economics and have done a lot of work with graphs - but it has been a long time since I contemplated the nitty gritty details of statistics.  "Populations", "samples", "parameters", and now I am knuckling down with variance, standard deviation and z-scores.

I must confess to a bit of apprehension but I am taking it slow and steady as I noodle my way towards a solid re-grasp of the fundamentals.  In a future assignment I will be taking data from a site and using it for analysis.  It may seem strange but I am actually looking forward to collecting data and conducting analysis.  Today we are surrounded by statistics regarding the economy, weather and politics and I think this course will help me become an even better consumer of the numbers.