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48 – Enhancing Data Literacy by Bringing Data into Introductory Oceanography Courses


  • Mikelle Nuwer, School of Oceanography, UW Seattle
  • Cheryl Greengrove, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Tacoma
  • Julie Masura, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Tacoma
  • Deb Kelley, School of Oceanography, UW Seattle


We live in a ‘big data’ world where there are ‘oceans of data’ available for anyone to download and explore. The “Using Data in the Undergraduate Science Classroom” report from the Science Education Resource Center identifies many reasons to engage students with data as part of their general scientific education. Easily accessible data provide an opportunity to teach students standard approaches to working with data that can be applied broadly across many fields. However, many students lack the skills required to navigate these large data sets on their own (Börner et al. 2018). Previous studies by Masura (2018) and Greengrove et al. (2019) show that introducing students to ‘big data’ in the context of oceanography enhances students’ general ability to use and evaluate data more effectively. These data skills are portable and can be applied in a variety of settings, providing students the foundation necessary for many emerging professions.

Data activities were incorporated into introductory oceanography courses at the University of Washington (UW) with the intent of increasing student engagement and enhancing students’ ability to use and interpret oceanographic data. ‘Data Explorations’ developed by the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) Data Lab Project were integrated into a lecture/lab class of 25 students at UW Tacoma and an 85-student lecture/lab class at UW Seattle. Examples of these exercises with a description of how the OOI Data Portal was used by students to explore and analyze oceanographic data will be presented. Students’ data literacy was monitored through pre- and post-class surveys and graded assessments throughout the quarter. In addition to our preliminary findings, we will present a framework for how any instructor can integrate ‘big data’ exercises into their own courses to engage and empower the professionals of tomorrow with the data evaluation skills necessary to succeed in their chosen careers.

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