Since its launch in August 2017, SAGE Campus has developed an extensive portfolio of online courses, giving students and researchers in the social sciences the skills they need to work with big data and new technology.

Programming skills unlock research potential

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There is a technological sea-change underway that has seen a surge in the number of social scientists looking to engage with large data sets in their research. In 2018, the University of Nottingham ESRC Doctoral Training Programme enrolled a cohort of PhD candidates on our Introduction to Python course, which is led by Dr. Rob Mastrodomenico and Dr. Phillip Brooker. Whilst the research interests of this group of learners span disciplines as diverse as politics, history, psychology and health studies (to name but a few) they are united by their desire to advance their methodological skill set.

We spoke to Lydia Topliss, the ESRC Doctoral Programmes Manager at the University of Nottingham, about why she chose SAGE Campus, and how our eLearning format suited their needs. It began when Lydia noted a significant increase in the number of students wanting to learn to use Python.

“I carried out an internet search of online courses and considered inviting a speaker in. In the end, it was Campus’ association with SAGE that made me confident in the reputability of this course. I felt it had integrity with Rob Mastrodomenico at the helm - he’s a known figure in the field of programming training.”

The flexibility of online learning was also a key factor for choosing SAGE Campus. Taking learning out of the classroom frees up demands on resources, removes timetabling difficulties, and allows students to learn at a time and place that suits them.

Interactive and Varied Learning

New research skills cannot be learned just by reading textbooks; students need to be able to put their new skills into practice and receive constructive feedback as they progress. With SAGE Campus learning support, students were able to have direct exchanges with their instructors, who responded to any questions that arose from the course content and provided personalised support. “Rob was fantastic”, said one student, “he couldn’t help enough!”

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The dynamic course design was also popular with learners, who said that they loved being able to take a break from reading with the video sessions. Lydia adds, “The platform is intuitive to use, and gives you just the right amount of information so that you are well informed, but not overwhelmed.”

Having received such positive feedback from students following the Introduction to Python course, Lydia is now looking to incorporate more online learning into their Doctoral Training Programme. “The students were very happy with the course, and everyone at SAGE has been great at keeping in touch. We would definitely come back to Campus!”

Are you from an institution and looking to upskill a group of students, faculty and staff, or fellow researchers in data science? Find out more about our group packages. Interested in learning Python? Check out our introductory course, and see our full course list here.