The Open University since 2006
Alternatively you can skip the navigation by pressing 'Enter'.
More or Less: How many cows for a fiver?Sunday, 4th December 2016 20:00 - BBC Radio 4 BBC Radio 4
The Secret History of Our Streets - London: Arnold CircusTuesday, 6th December 2016 22:00 - BBC Four
The Secret History of Our Streets - London: Arnold CircusThursday, 8th December 2016 00:45 - BBC Four
Vienna: Empire, Dynasty and Dream: Episode 1: The Imperial City 1160-1683Thursday, 8th December 2016 21:00 - BBC Four
More or Less: How many cows for a fiver?Available for over a year
Colour: The Spectrum of Science: Episode 1: Colours of EarthAvailable until Saturday, 31st December 2016 23:00
BBC Inside Science - 2016/2017 series: Alzheimer's research, Lucy, Glowing bandage package, Supernovas to HollywoodAvailable for over a year
The Secret History of Our Streets - London: Reverdy RoadAvailable until Saturday, 31st December 2016 01:30
Human Rights Week10 December is Human Rights Day but here at The Open University we'll be exploring progress made... Read more: Human Rights Week
Do Christmas lights interfere with your wifi signal?Beware: Britain's communication regulator warns that your twinkling festive lights might be... Read more: Do Christmas lights interfere with your wifi signal?
Exploring equality and equity in educationThis free course, Exploring equality and equity in education, considers the complexity of social... Try: Exploring equality and equity in education now
Organisations and management accountingThis free course, Organisations and management accounting, examines the nature of organisations,... Try: Organisations and management accounting now
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 course, you should be able to:
- identify some of the instances in daily life where a computer is, or is likely to be, involved
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
2.1.2 Data and information
So far, I have used two words in connection with computers: data and information. Did you see any differences in the way the two terms have been used? Let me point out one.
Data refers to discrete items, such as the price of an item on the shelf of a supermarket, or the type of product listed on a sign over a supermarket aisle. The word ‘data’ is a plural Latin word but it is generally used as a singular word in English.
In contrast, information involves linking together two or more items of data to provide an item of knowledge. If someone suddenly said to you, ‘50p’, you'd be a bit puzzled. However, being told, ‘The price of a litre of milk is 50p’, would convey information. In other words, information can be thought of as the answer to a question such as: ‘What is the price of this product?’ So the words ‘50p’ said in connection with nothing would mean little, but stated in answer to the above question would convey information or knowledge.
It's true that the distinction I've made here between data and information may seem fuzzy. One person's data could be another's information (as you will see later in this course). But for now, please work with the simple definitions given above.
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: Monday, 22nd February 2016
- 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.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
If you enjoyed this, why not follow a feed to find out when we have new things like it? Choose an RSS feed from the list below. (Don't know what to do with RSS feeds?)
Remember, you can also make your own, personal feed by combining tags from around OpenLearn.
- Latest OpenLearn pages
- Latest pages from OpenLearn - Computing and ICT
- Latest pages tagged - M150_2
- Latest pages tagged - warehousing
- Latest pages tagged - data
- Latest pages tagged - information
- Latest pages tagged - skills for study: digital and online
- Latest pages tagged - skills for work: digital
- Latest comments on this page
All our alternative formats are free for you to download, for more information about the different formats we offer please see our FAQs. The most frequently used are Word (for accessibility), PDF (for print) and ePub and Kindle to download to eReaders*.
- Word (2.2 MB)
- PDF (3.5 MB)
- ePub 3.0 (2 MB)
- ePub 2.0 (2 MB)
- Kindle (1.1 MB)
- RSS (366 KB)
- HTML (1.5 MB)
- SCORM (1.5 MB)
- OUXML Package (49 KB)
- OUXML File (156 KB)
- IMS Common cartridge
*Please note you will need an ePub and Mobi reader for these formats.