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Experiential Learning

U of Illinois Giving Students Hands-on Experience with COVID-19 Public Health Data Analysis

The University of Illinois Center for Health Informatics recently collaborated with the World Health Organization/Pan-American Health Organization (WHO/PAHO) to create an experiential learning program for students. The CHI Mobilizing Experts in Illinois ("CHIME in Illinois") initiative is providing students with real-world experience working with WHO/PAHO to analyze public health data for COVID-19 decision-making.

For instance, in one project, Illinois students are creating a web portal for real-time COVID-19 health metrics, to help provide health departments with a holistic view of both local and international data. Students are also "using data science to analyze social media to see what people in the Americas are saying about COVID-19, how countries are able to manage data, and how that data is used to make public health decisions related to quarantines, stay-at-home mandates, mask wearing, and hot spot identification," according to a news announcement.

The university is managing the experiential learning opportunities with EduSourced, a platform that helps connect faculty, industry partners, mentors and alumni for project-based work with student teams.  

"The EduSourced platform is a simple-to-use interface where we can easily connect students with projects, and provides an experiential learning experience that goes above and beyond what you can typically do in a classroom," said Ian Brooks, director of the Center for Health Informatics at the University of Illinois and leader of the CHIME in Illinois initiative, in a statement. "Most of our students using EduSourced for the CHIME in Illinois initiative are master's students retraining from other degrees to be data scientists. What better way to truly learn the analytical side of data than to actually work on projects that directly impact issues real people face? With the COVID-19 pandemic interrupting traditional classroom learning, it's been a terrific initiative for us."

"These students have the expertise we don't have, and being under the leadership of Dr. Brooks provides an additional value, due to his knowledge of PAHO and our work with the countries of the Americas," commented Marcelo D'Agostino, WHO/PAHO senior adviser.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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