Bit Project

Implementing Data Science into Sacramento State’s Sociology Class

“Bit Project equips students in humanities with the tools they need to succeed in research and data analysis through interdisciplinary learning.” - Amy Cu, Curriculum Developer.

Problem

Professor Thien-Huong Ninh, who teaches Sociology at Sacramento State University, has always been interested in interdisciplinary learning and believed that merging different fields together can result in better research, allowing for analysis of broader sets of data. For instance, teaching Python to students in globalization or immigration studies will allow them to manipulate, visualize, and thus, better understand the data they come across in textbooks.

This passion of Professor Ninh’s led her to attend one of Bit Project’s webinar last spring, where the Bit Project team and several UC Berkeley professors discussed the benefits of teaching interdisciplinary classes and integrating data science into more traditionally non-tech fields. Bit Project’s initiative is to help professors in the humanities field smoothly integrate tech into their courses, equipping each student with the skills needed to land research positions, keep up with the rapidly developing tech world, and so much more. Bit Project strives to show students the role data science plays in the humanities and leave them with ability to learn more on their own.

Intrigued by the team’s enthusiasm to reach similar goals, Professor Ninh agreed her Research Methods course lacked material about data science and knew that teaching her students programs such as Python would only be advantageous to them in the long run.

Solution

Professor Ninh began a collaboration with Bit Project in the middle of Fall Semester 2020. To tailor the curriculum to Professor Ninh’s class, who only had four weeks left until final exams, the Bit Project team revamped and condensed the 13-week curriculum previously created for Dr. Jamila Moore Pewu’s Digital History class at Cal State University, Fullerton. Adjustments were made to ensure all the necessary basics of data science were included while also refraining from overwhelming the students with new material. Coupled with Bit Project’s weekly office hours and live Q&A sessions via Piazza, it was the perfect accommodation for Professor Ninh and her students.  

Moreover, in order to assess how to integrate the full 13-week curriculum for future semesters, Professor Ninh initially implemented the curriculum as an extra credit module in her course to test the structure, coherence, and practicality of the curriculum. The four-week module is an introduction to data analysis and revolves around humanities datasets (https://gss.norc.org/get-the-data):

  • Introduction to Python
  • Basic Data Manipulation with Pandas
  • Basic Data Visualization with MatPlotLib
  • Cumulative Lab

This module concludes with a hands-on lab project, allowing students to use all the Python tools and skills they have learned and apply it to real-life datasets about various demographics (e.g. income, marital status, location, age, etc.).  

Results & Future Plans

Bit Project introduced sociology students to the realm of data science and equipped them with fundamentals in data analysis. The team’s developers collected and used student feedback to revise and improve the curriculum in order to curate the material to best fit students’ needs. For instance, since the original 13-week course was condensed down to four weeks, student feedback prompted us to make the material more beginner-friendly—less jargon, simpler examples, and a lot more practice problems. This way, students are able to comprehend the material better and learn how to tackle new problems on their own.  

Looking forward, Bit Project is extremely excited to continue partnering with Professor Ninh for the following Spring Semester at Sacramento State University and has plans to expand the collaboration to her Intermediate Statistics class at San Diego State University. Through these opportunities, we continue our mission to enlighten more students with interdisciplinary studies and broaden their potential career path choices.