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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

MOOC on Data Journalism in Portuguese ends with record participation and project diversity



The "Basic Techniques of Data Journalism" course, offered by the Knight Center and the Brazilian National Association of Newspapers (ANJ for its acronym in Portuguese) with Google's support, ended last week and exceeded expectations for participation and project quality. There were about five thousand people enrolled from over 30 countries, the largest class to date in massive training courses offered in Portuguese by the Knight Center. Many students stayed with the course to the end to showcase what they learned during the five training modules.

Participants learned the main techniques for data journalism, led by coordinators from Escola de Dados, Marco Túlio Pires and Natália Mazotte, and Lise Olsen, investigative reporter for the Houston Chronicle newspaper. After obtaining data, passing it through clearning, scraping and analysis phases to reach the final visual product, students began projects that show how the universe of digital data can enrich investigation and the journalistic narrative.

Eduardo Militão, political reporter for the Correio Braziliense, used the knowledge acquired in the course to reissue a visualization used in a report about Operation Car Wash (Operação Lava Jato). Using the tool StoryMap, he visually explained complex topics such as political and business relations and police investigations into financial crimes. "What I found most amazing was the ability to ‘deliver’ complex issues of corruption, money laundering and campaign finance in a simple way," Militão said.

According to him, the techniques presented have been incorporated into his work routine. "We did a story on a decree studied by the government and related to the Disarmament Statute this week and I need to follow up on the case. In a short time, we gathered available material and produced interactive and static visualizations on homicide rates. So, with little effort, we enriched the material with contextual information that is easily understood by citizens.”

Rogério Moreira Junior, of the newspaper Notícias do Dia in Florianópolis, also has published reports made with data after completing the MOOC. Using Tableau Public, a tool shown in the last module, he presented data from IPEA research on traffic accidents.

"I always had some discomfort in thinking that I did not deal well with interactive graphics - they seemed like a foreign land, where I could not turn around. Doing the course exercises (especially the advanced track - great idea!) made me cross the border and to try online visualizations. In the end, we discovered that they are not that complicated. I only regret not having taken a course like this before,” he said.

If numbers help to understand stories in the politics and daily life sections, we could not miss using them in the economy section. That's where Ângela Prestes, reporter of newspaper O Nacional and editor of magazine Destaque Rural, plans to apply what she learned in the MOOC.

"It was very helpful. I have never done any data journalism training and I finished this course with a very large toolbox. How to work in the economy section, where data are usually present, I can apply the knowledge practically every day. The report I made for the final project of the course was published in the newspaper where I work, about the production of biodiesel in Passo Fundo,” she said.

In addition, other projects stood out from the final work done for the course, with data on the unemployment situation in Alagoas, on the fatal crimes in Pernambuco, and even about the course participants. Student Edenilson Rodrigues de Souza studied the relationship of course participants and made a map showing their locations (see below).

Instructor Natalia Mazotte said she was impressed with the impact of the MOOC.

"We did not expect such a large amount of participation. The students really engaged and delivered fantastic designs, even though it was an introductory course. The feedback was also very positive, Marco, Lise and I received numerous messages congratulating us on the content of the modules. It is gratifying to see that what we shared was useful for so many people," Natalia said.

She added, "The course opened the door to create a community of journalists interested in the use of data in the fact-checking and presentation of their stories. And this undoubtedly contributes to the quality of journalistic work.”

For Marco Túlio Pires, the course is proof that data journalism training in Brazil needs to be expanded.

"We realized that there is a very high demand for courses in this area and in Portuguese,” he said. "The idea is that we can offer more courses in the Knight Center platform, going further on each topic we explored in this MOOC, with the support of Escola de Dados."

Thanks to support from Google, the Knight Center will offer a trip for six students of the MOOC to participate in the Data Journalism Seminar, organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. The seminar will take place at Google’s headquarters in São Paulo on Nov. 12.

At least six scholarships will be offered to journalists, journalism professors and students who will have the cost of travel and hotel covered if they come from outside of São Paulo. Fellows will be selected from among the MOOC students who completed the course and did the best journalism project guided by data. MOOC participants who wish to apply for the scholarship have to apply using this form, which can be completed until October 11, 2015. Applicants must include a link to the final visualization project.

"We thank Google for supporting this advanced training initiative of Brazilian journalists offered by the ANJ and by the Knight Center," said Professor Rosental Calmon Alves, founder and director of the Knight Center at the University of Texas at Austin. "Journalists from all Brazilian states have registered and have benefited from this massive online course, learning data journalism techniques. This type of professional development had never before reached all corners of the country at the same time. We are happy to see that this is now possible.”

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas is a leader in international online training of journalists. The Center was established in 2002 at the University of Texas at Austin, thanks to generous grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Since 2003, when it began a pioneering program of distance learning, the Knight Center has trained over 7000 journalists from all Spanish-speaking countries through more than 100 online short courses for small groups. In 2012, the Center launched the first massive open online course (MOOC) in the world of journalism. Since then, the Knight Center MOOCs have reached more than 35,000 people in 150 countries.



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