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Ever wondered how a computer processes data into information? This free course, An introduction to data and information, will help you to understand the distinction between the two and examines how a computer-based society impacts on daily life. You will learn what computers can do with data to produce information and how computers can be used to work with data and search for it, control machines, and support commercial operations.
After studying this unit you should be able to:
- identify some of the instances in daily life where a computer is, or is likely to be, involved;
- given a simple scenario, list most of the obvious information or data required by the parties in that scenario, and give some examples of how the information or data might be used;
- explain briefly what perceptual data is, and how it is turned into a form that can be used by a person for reasoning or by a computer for processing;
- given a figure, identify whether it is a sign and, if so, what it symbolises;
- describe, in simple terms, the difference between data and information;
- give a simple explanation of why computers are important to people in terms of data and information;
- describe what a parameter is and identify the parameters in a particular scenario;
- explain in simple terms what a computer program is, and why one is necessary;
- explain the role of the computer with respect to the data given to it;
- make use of a search engine to find websites corresponding to a topic of your choice, using some of the advanced search features, and be able to state how many computers (at a minimum) are involved in using a search engine and which role each has;
- understand what a gateway is and what advantages it offers a user in searching for a topic;
- briefly explain how requirements (e.g. considering the environment in which a computer might be used) affect the presentation of information, giving a simple example;
- list some of the problems raised by very large databases even when the basic unit of data is very simple;
- explain briefly what advantages a computer system can offer a creative artist and what characteristic enables it to do so;
- describe briefly the elements of a distributed system that are needed for selling on the web;
- describe the role of computers in controlling mechanical devices;
- explain the role of sensors and actuators in a computer-controlled application, given a brief description of that application;
- identify some simple safety considerations in a computer-controlled application;
- identify appropriate information displays in a given situation.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 An introduction to data and information
- 2 Daily life and computers
- 3 Sensing data and turning it into something usable
- 4 Computers as tools for finding
- 4.1 Where am I and how do I get to … ?
- 4.2 Finding information: the web
- 4.3 Computer-based activities
- 4.4 Summary
- 5 Computers as tools for working with data
- 6 Controlling things; selling things
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
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An introduction to data and information
Computers are used to find, store, process and share data and information. The World Wide Web is an example of a vast store of information, which can be searched. This material will introduce you to what a web browser is and how to use one. The use of search engines to find information more effectively on the web will also be demonstrated. This unit looks at how data is transformed into information and relates the topics of data and information to the computer. These are fundamental issues in an understanding of the way in which the computer has shaped and changed contemporary life.
This OpenLearn course provides a sample of Level 1 study in
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Computing and ICT courses or view the range of currently available OU Computing and ICT courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Thursday, 14th July 2011
Last updated on: Tuesday, 10th December 2013
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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