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From analysing to using big data: specialists need to cross subject borders

Third "Data Science" certificate programme to be offered at Münster University
Data scientists design mathematical models for processing data, which they then analyse and place in a meaningful context.<address>© Fotolia</address>
Data scientists design mathematical models for processing data, which they then analyse and place in a meaningful context.
© Fotolia

All over the country, there is a desperate search for so-called “data scientists”. Since 2015, the Faculty of Economics at the University of Münster has teamed up with the University’s Institute of Continuing Education to offer a part-time certificate programme entitled “Data Science”. The programme’s directors are Prof. Thorsten Quandt from the Department of Communication, Prof. Heike Trautmann and Prof. Gottfried Vossen from the Department of Business Information Systems, and Prof. Thorsten Wiesel from the Marketing Center Münster.

Almost everyone leaves their mark on the internet. If you buy a new dress or a suit online, you are frequently offered shoes and jackets to match. And it is not only online shopping that generates a lot of information. Data come from a variety of sources – which means, for example, that electronic communication via messenger services and the use of social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram produce huge amounts of data. On top of that, surveillance systems, credit and debit cards, as well as smart technology in vehicles and home appliances, all collect individual information on us relating to patterns of behaviour, preferences and other features of our daily lives. This is where the specialist “data scientists” come in, who are needed to help in using the data in a purposeful way. The scientists design mathematical models for processing data, which they then analyse and place in a meaningful context. According to a recent study undertaken by McKinsey, there is a shortage of around 95,000 such data specialists in German companies.

Data specialists need holistic skills

It is precisely these data specialists that are being trained on the part-time certificate programme entitled “Data Science” offered by the Faculty of Economics at Münster University. “What distinguishes our Data Science concept,” says Heike Trautmann, “is its interdisciplinary nature and the integrated view it takes of various areas of research.” As Thorsten Quandt points out, “Not only technical aspects of computer science and data analysis, but also concepts of communication – in combination with applications from the field of marketing – enable course participants to take an holistic view of data-driven decision processes.” In particular, the role and use of big data comprises an important part of the course. But what is actually behind this term “big data”? Basically, it refers to five elements: volume (of data), velocity (at which data are generated and transferred), variety (bandwidth of data types and data sources), and value and validity, which ensure the added-value for a company and provide quality assurance for the data.

“Many companies recognise the enormous value which analytical scenarios based on big data have,” explains Thorsten Wiesel, “as well as the influence they have in general on business analyses and, in particular, on product development, production and marketing, customer relations management and, ultimately, turnover. Any company without the qualifications in the field of big data is at a distinctive disadvantage vis-à-vis its competitors.” To help in teaching this holistic view,” Gottfried Vossen explains, “course participants bring in real-life examples and questions. In the teaching sessions, the things we discuss with the students include individual approaches and solutions to individual problems. Afterwards, the course participants implement the solutions in their companies.”

Nowadays, the flood of data has taken a firm hold on the most widely differing aspects of society, decisively influencing many people’s behaviour. In spite of this – or perhaps because of it – many people have misgivings as regards current developments in the field of digitalisation. “This is largely because of the anonymity of the internet and the many misunderstandings revolving around discussions on digitalisation,” says Thorsten Quandt. The fact that computers can suggest a jacket that matches a dress, and that online vendors send out personalised communications, makes many people sceptical and suspicious. “It’s all about drawing up customer profiles to match customers’ requirements and about improving their online shopping experience. And that’s great!” says Thorsten Wiesel, laughing. “After all, everyone’s happy to go to the baker’s on a Sunday morning and be welcomed with their favourite rolls.”

“Data Science” certificate programme at Münster University

Beginning in the winter semester 2018, the Faculty of Economics will be teaming up for the third time with the University’s Institute of Continuing Education to offer the part-time certificate programme in “Data Science”. The programme, which lasts ten months, is aimed at people who are faced with big data in their working lives and it includes elements of communication, IT and marketing. Course participants are taught how to take an interdisciplinary view and are shown a variety of ways of handling and working with big data. For the course beginning in December, the closing date for applications is October 8.

Münster University’s Institute of Continuing Education (WWU Weiterbildung gGmbH) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Münster and provides part-time continuing education within the range of courses offered at the University.

Author: Kathrin Kottke

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