With the advent of data science as a new discipline with high demand for a skilled workforce, educators are increasingly recognizing the value of translating courses and programs that have been shown to be successful and sharing lessons learned in increasing diversity in data science education. In this paper, we describe and analyze our experiences translating a lower-division data science curriculum from one university, University of California, Berkeley’s Data8 course, to other settings with very different student populations and institutional contexts at, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Mills College during Spring 2021. It is essential to motivate students to meaningfully take part in their journey into a data science career. We wanted to consider their perceptions and motivations to take foundation courses and next steps emerging from the foundation course.

We evaluated how students were receiving the course and curriculum with the adaptations across the three institutions. Two identical surveys were administered at all three institutions, once at the beginning of the semester and then at the end to study the impact of the course and its variations on the students. The survey consisted of over 60 questions including demographics, understanding the motivations on why students were in the data science class, how they perceived data science, etc. Overall, UMBC and Mills both showed gains in students’ motivations over the semester, as seen by comparing the mean scores for questions asked at the beginning of the semester versus the end. We also saw gains in student perceptions towards Data Science at the end of the semester at UMBC and Mills. With the very large size of classes at Berkeley, we performed a weighted analysis from the UC Berkeley data with respect to race, gender, first-generation status, transfer status, and international student status drawing samples close to UMBC and MILLS. This weighted sample of UC Berkeley’s students shows a clear improvement across both sets of questions after taking the Foundations class. Our findings emphasized the importance of adapting courses and programs to existing curricula, student populations, cyberinfrastructure, and faculty and staff resources in the context of the institutions. Such adaptation can help students develop their understanding of data science career pathways and help hone their motivations which can lead to a more engaged workforce supporting the data science careers

Publication date: 
March 8, 2023
Publication type: 
Journal Article
Wang, S., Janeja, V., Harding, D., Von Vacano, C., & Lobo, D. (2023). ADOPTING DATA SCIENCE CURRICULA: A STUDENT CENTRIC EVALUATION. In INTED2023 Proceedings (pp. 8309-8315). IATED.