Colin Archibald – “Big Data” is not ready for Valencia

Professor Colin Archibald, computer programming professor, used part of his University Club of Orlando Chair in Advanced Computer Technology this year to explore the world of “big data.”

“In this project colinarchibaldwe explored the emerging field of big data. Also called data analytics, and closely related to other emerging fields in computing, such as predictive analytics and business intelligence. Big data is not a well-defined field of study. In fact, most of what is called big data is really the rebranding of well-known mathematics. The new part is that we have data being collected from many different sources, including from a myriad of internet-connected devices.”


Dr. Archibald attended an intensive three-day course during the Christmas break. This course was offered by Learning Tree International, and called Introduction to Big Data. This was a very valuable course – although what was learned wasn’t what was expected!

One of the most valuable lessons was that the computer science department has determined that “the wme-and-earl-1eek long, intensive, boot-camp style courses are not the most effective way to learn this material”; they chose to go a different route, and purchase some online video courses that would help people in the computer science department learn this new technology. One plus is that taking the courses on an ad-hoc basis means that they can take these courses as needed and as time allows, without disrupting their usual day-to-day teaching.

A series of several video courses were purchased instead, making it a very high learning-value. Additionally, they generated some interesting discussion among the advanced students. One student did his project for the honors program on “big data” (Correlation or Causation).

Although the original objective was to create a course for Valencia programming students in big data, that proved to be a bit beyond the reach of faculty and students at this time.  Dr. Archibald says “We’ll keep an eye on it. When it is a bit more solid, and a lot less ‘hype,’ we’ll have another look at whether it should be part of the curriculum.”


1 week to the big day- let’s make some noise!




What: #DollarsforScholars is Valencia College Foundation’s end of year campaign.

Why: #DollarsforScholars will make the difference for many students to get the education they’ve always wanted.

When: Starting with #GivingTuesday, a national day of giving, on December 1 through the end of the year.

How: Donate any amount. Take an unselfie.  Spread the word.



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Colin Archibald, professor of computer programming

ColinArchibaldYou’ve heard about it, maybe even work with it. But what IS Big Data, and how is it useful?

Colin Archibald, professor of computer programming, is using his University Club of Orlando Chair in Advanced Computer Technology to investigate using Big Data to possibly create a course in Big Data.

“’Big Data’ is a new form of data processing that allows us to see trends and correlations in very large sets of data.  Some are calling this new research area ‘Data Science.’  The volume and lack of structure of Big Data prevents the use of traditional software development tools.  New methods of applying statistical processes on large data sets are emerging as a discipline within computing.   There is a shortage of talent in this area, and companies are limited by this,” according to Professor Archibald.

Data comes from almost everything we do now.  How frequently do you change the channel before you decide to watch a particular TV show?  There is a company trying to learn something from that data right now.  Your location, and movements as monitored by the smart phone in your pocket, are somehow valuable to some business, even if it’s only to present a more appropriate advertisement to you while you’re on Facebook.  Although there is room for nefarious uses of big data, most of it is business trying to find correlations that impact their bottom line.  Some will be very small, and might not be too meaningful.

Did you know that all the grocery stores run out of Poptarts when a hurricane is in the forecast?  Correlations and IntelAndroidcausations are very different.  It is not likely that a hurricane will come because the stores run out of Poptarts.  Although that one is easy to identify the ‘cause’ in the correlation, it’s frequently not obvious.  Many health-related studies, especially with the result “you should shouldn’t eat XYZ” are now considered to have been wrong and are referred to as “correlation” studies.  New methods in processing larger and more complex data sets may have widespread implications, not only in business, but for our well-being.

The endowed chairs are proposing to investigate the addition of Big Data Programming to the AS Computer Programming and Analysis curriculum at Valencia within the next two years (currently planned as a special topics course in the fall of 2016). If this is viewed as valuable to the curriculum, it will be added as a permanent course in the AS Computer Programming.

To facilitate that, they’re planning on Dr. Archibald and Professor Jerry Reed attending some short courses to study the techniques and programming languages used specifically for Big Data.