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Introduction to Data Management, Life History, and Demography

Author(s): Risa Cohen

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Summary:
Learning Goals: • explain importance of data management • identify elements of an organized data sheet • create & manipulate data in a spreadsheet • calculate vital statistics using life tables • collect, manage and analyze data to test…

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Learning Goals: • explain importance of data management • identify elements of an organized data sheet • create & manipulate data in a spreadsheet • calculate vital statistics using life tables • collect, manage and analyze data to test hypotheses

Description

This module is intended to be delivered fully online as a combination of:

  1. Lecture content to explain data management (using NEON as an example), life history and demography
  2. Discussion (so the students have some interaction) to brainstorm ideas about why human population dynamics may differ spatially and temporally
  3. An individual assignment where they collect demography data that interests them using findagrave.com, followed by comparisons of survivorship curves and life tables for two populations using data that I collected. I felt it was important for everyone to be working on the same dataset for the analysis portion of the assignment, which also allowed use a template that makes grading easier.

Notes

This module was developed as part of the Inclusive Pedagogy FMN, so the focus for me was about increasing inclusivity by improving accessibility for a fully online class. One challenge with this course is that the students can be from one of 3 campuses (>50 mi apart). When I teach it in the summer, the students can be from any institution (transient students). Many of the existing TIEE modules are great for face-to-face classes where the instructor can hold field trips, have hands-on activities, field questions as they arise and manage students working in groups together. My class is asynchronous, and having students work together in groups is very challenging. And many students work on the class late at night after work, so things like visiting a cemetery are out of the question. I also had to think about the different levels of students, to make sure this could be completed by everyone without needing a lot of additional  explanation from me beyond what I provided in the materials. I decided to have this module be delivered as a combination of:

  1. Lecture content to explain data management (using NEON as an example), life history and demography
  2. Discussion (so the students could have some interaction) to brainstorm ideas about why human population dynamics may differ spatially and temporally
  3. An individual assignment where they collect demography data that interests  them using findagrave.com, followed by comparisons of survivorship curves and life tables for two populations using data that I collected. I felt it  was important for everyone to be working on the same dataset for the analysis portion of the assignment, which also allowed me to use a template that made grading slightly easier.

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