Students from both programs start their learning journey in the same foundational course, which introduces the fundamentals of machine learning, data science, geocoding, and other analytical techniques. From there, students branch out to pursue their specific interests before coming back together for a semester-long capstone project that challenges them to apply everything they have learned.
During the capstone, students work in teams to address a local business or civic issue that involves multiple streams of data. Teams rely extensively on the Alteryx software environment to combine their data sources, clean the results, generate reports and provide a foundation for making intelligent decisions based on where the data is pointing.
In the case of Montreal’s notorious pothole problem, they crunch the average repair costs, numbers of complaint calls and emails coming into the city’s maintenance department, the time involved in filling each hole and other variables. For the assessment of local fire risk, students assemble data on property values, fire department response times, household income levels, population density and the weather.
The course instructors typically invite City of Montreal representatives to attend the student teams’ final capstone presentations. “We want to give our students a challenge that feels tangible, something that touches their lives,” Beitinjaneh says of the local focus. “What better way than by getting to know your own city?”
Intuitive Tools Support End-to-End Problem Solving
Lopez and Beitinjaneh’s quest for a data analytics software platform that was powerful, yet also intuitive to use, led them to Alteryx in 2018. The Alteryx for Good program, which provides free or discounted software licenses to nonprofit organizations, is integral to their program’s success, says Lopez.
“We get a lot of value from the Alteryx platform,” he says. “It allows our students to take a step-by-step approach and create that logic of solving a problem from beginning to end.
“You see your results immediately, and it’s easier to discuss what you’re seeing,” he adds. “The ability to plug and play is great.”
Faisal Alazem, an advanced analyst at Bell Canada who recently completed the professional development certificate program at McGill, says his experiences using Alteryx have made an immediate and profound impact on his career.