What’s the story?

Wright State students pull meaning from data and turn it into storytelling videos

The Data Visualization for Business course, held in the Data Analytics and Visualization Environment, or DAVE lab, at the Raj Soin College of Business, trains students to understand data analytics through stories. (Photo by Erin Pence)

How people spend their time, the history of destructive hurricanes in the North Atlantic, how much Americans drink, where and how you are most likely to die.

These are some of the topics tackled by Wright State University students who collected the numbers, made sense of them through data analytics and then created storytelling videos to bring the statistics to life.

The project was part of a class called Data Visualization for Business.

“You can’t just throw information at people; it has to make sense,” said Shu Schiller, associate professor and chair of information systems and supply chain management. “The data doesn’t tell you much by itself. You have to analyze and extract meaningful information. Then you must take the audience step by step through the data and draw a conclusion.”

The class is held in the Data Analytics and Visualization Environment, or DAVE lab, at the Raj Soin College of Business.

The 1,000-square-foot lab, which features a mini supercomputer as well as visualization software, opened in the fall of 2015. It is used to teach students business analytics, a fast-growing field that is quickly becoming a huge part of how corporations and organizations do their jobs.

The storytelling project involved students from a variety of majors. They were required to identify a subject in which they were interested, use interactive software to build data models and then interpret the data.

“We were essentially taking publically available raw data on a topic that piqued our interest, imported the data into software and produced meaningful information that would tell a story or help us in understanding real world,” said Raneem Barri, an accounting and management information systems major.

The students said they learned the most by having the choice of what kinds of data to analyze.

“It really motivates the students to work on something that’s of their interest,” said Schiller.

The final step in the project was producing a video about the data.

“That was a really interesting part,” said Schiller. “The students in the beginning were fearful about this. But in the end they learned so much they enjoyed the process.”

Many of the students filmed their videos in the Green Room at the Student Technology Assistance Center (STAC) in Dunbar Library. The STAC, a service of University Libraries, provides the use of ready-to-go audio and video recording kits, the Green Room and the Pod, a room that enables students to do recording projects.

Each video was about two minutes long.

“The students wrote the scripts themselves,” said Schiller. “They also edited the videos and do other post-production work. Some of the videos are truly professional. It’s really amazing.”

The project not only taught students how to pull meaning from the data, but also how to visualize it.

“Many prospective employers seem especially interested in what the students learned in this class,” said Schiller. “I’m very confident that these skill sets will help students tremendously. One of the things business students need to do very well is communicate. And it’s not just communication — it’s how to persuade others.”

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