Masdar Wireless Businessman, Computer Scientist, Blogger

Data Visualization by UIUC on Coursera

Right after I made the decision to make a better living and apply for MS/PhD track outside China, I signed up for THE specialization on Coursera provided by UIUC. This is a 6-course specilization and it’s named Data Mining. First of the series is Data Visualization.

Course Description

Data Visualization is a course that teaches how to create visualizations that effectively communicate the meaning behind data to an observer through visual perception. We will learn how a computer displays information using computer graphics, and how the human perceives that information visually. We will also study the forms of data, including quantitative and non-quantitative data, and how they are properly mapped to the elements of a visualization to be perceived well by the observer. We will briefly overview some design elements for effective visualization, though we will not focus on the visual design needed to make attractive and artistic visualizations. This course does not require computer programming, but computer programming can be used to complete the exercises. The course will conclude with the integration of visualization into database and data-mining systems to provide support for decision making, and the effective construction of a visualization dashboard.

Course Goals and Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe how 2-D and 3-D computer graphics are used to visualize data.

  • Describe how an observer perceives and processes information from a visual display.

  • Utilize a wide vocabulary of visualization methods and how best to apply them to different kinds of data.

  • Decide which design styles and colors work best for different visualization situations.

  • Visualize data when it is not numerical.

  • Use techniques for visualizing databases and data mining to help visually sort through massive datasets.

  • Analyze tasks and build visualization dashboards to provide data to support making a decision.

Course Outline

The course consists of 4 weekly modules that focus on the following.

Week 1: The Computer and the Human Key Concepts:

Introduction to visualization Using computer graphics to display data The model human processor and Fitts’s law Human visual perception and cognition

Week 2: Visualization of Numerical Data Key Concepts:

Different kinds of visualizations and how best to apply them to data Basic charts such as bar charts and scatter plots More advanced visualization techniques, such as streamgraphs and parallel coordinates Some elements of design and color usage Week 3: Visualization of Non-Numerical Data Key Concepts:

Graphs, networks, and hierarchies Layout of relational and hierarchical data, such as treemaps Methods for visualizing high-dimensional data, such as principal component analysis and multidimensional scaling Week 4: The Visualization Dashboard Key Concepts:

Visualizing large datasets Visualization of databases and data mining results Visual analytics for decision support Task analysis Visualization dashboards

Elements of This Course

The course is comprised of the following elements:

  • Lecture videos. In each module the concepts you need to know will be presented through a collection of short video lectures. You may stream these videos for playback within the browser by clicking on their titles or download the videos. You may also download the slides that go along with the videos.

  • Quizzes. Week 1 and Week 4 will include a for-credit quiz. You will be allowed 3 attempts at the quiz per every 8 hours. Each attempt may present a different selection of questions to you. Your best score will be used when calculating your final score in the class. There is no time limit on how long you take to complete each attempt at the quiz.

  • Programming assignments. There are two required programming assignments for the class. The first programming assignment is to create a visualization of numerical data, and the second programming assignment is to create a visualization of non-numerical data (e.g., a network or a hierarchy). For each assignment, sample data will be provided, but you are encouraged to find your own data. Your goal will be to present that data in a visualization that helps the observer to better understand what the data represents. The programming assignments will be peer graded based on rubrics that measure how well the course’s methods have been applied to the visualization of the data.

Week 1

Tips for Success

To do well this week, I recommend that you do the following:

Review the video lectures a number of times to gain a solid understanding of the key questions and concepts introduced this week. When possible, provide tips and suggestions to your peers in this class. As a learning community, we can help each other learn and grow. One way of doing this is by helping to address the questions that your peers pose. By engaging with each other, we鈥檒l all learn better. It鈥檚 always a good idea to refer to the video lectures and chapter readings we’ve read during this week and reference them in your responses. When appropriate, critique the information presented. Take notes while you read the materials and watch the lectures for this week. By taking notes, you are interacting with the material and will find that it is easier to remember and to understand. With your notes, you鈥檒l also find that it鈥檚 easier to complete your assignments. So, go ahead, do yourself a favor; take some notes!


  • Model human processor *

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