Resources: Course Assignments

Module 2 Assignment: Exploring COVID-19 Data Graphically

Open Pedagogy Assignments

Assignments in which students use their agency and creativity to create knowledge artifacts that can support their own learning, their classmates’ learning, and the learning of students around the world. (See this peer-reviewed article for more details.) Each of the assignments on this page is aligned to a learning outcome of Concepts in Statistics and we’ve identified the module where the reading appears. All of the assignments can be created with a cell phone camera or any video recording device, Google or Word documents, and your learning management system.

Learning Outcome 2.1-2.6: Exploring COVID-19 Data Graphically

Recall the initial steps to a statistical investigation:

  • Devise a research question
  • Produce data
  • Explore the data

In this activity, we will practice the crucial step of making some initial sense of data so that it can be usefully interpreted. You will also have the chance to share this data with people outside the course who may find it helpful. One set of data that is relevant to us all is about the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of the virus that causes it has radically changed our lives. Media outlets and research institutions have tried to help us understand the data surrounding the pandemic, such as the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.


STEP 1: Go to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website and explore the data that is made publicly available there.

STEP 2: Move on to the CDC’s data visualization tool. Notice the various dimensions of the COVID Case Surveillance Data you can display in the top drop-down menu at the left, including race and ethnicity, age group, and sex. Take a closer look at this national data in the category of your choice, and display it in a “column chart” (histogram) view. Notice the column labels, how are they ordered? Take a screenshot of the histogram.

STEP 3: Now take a look at the latest data on the age distribution of COVID-19 cases of your state. In a search engine, enter your state name and “COVID data” to find data from a state website. How does your state’s data compare to the national distribution?

STEP 4: Use these two histograms to illustrate a short presentation. In your presentation, describe the distribution of the ages of positive cases and highlight the similarities and differences between the two datasets.

STEP 5: Make a short recording of the presentation and share it with your instructor. Your instructor will then share the recordings with the class, so that you can all discuss and share.

A Note To Teachers: This activity lends itself well to both individual and small group work. The first time your students complete this assignment, choose the best ones and ask students for permission to include them in future sections. In the first term, students will create videos, and with their permission, you can upload them into your course in order to show examples for the next term. The idea is to have students generate content that other students can learn from in this assignment.

Further, consider having students post their screenshots, links to legitimate data sources, and a very short “headline” to a social media platform. Help students learn to find and share data!


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