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Learn to code for data analysis
Learn to code for data analysis

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Introduction and guidance

Week 1: Having a go at it Part 1

1 Install the software

To code in the course notebooks that Ruth mentioned in the video you’ll need to install some software.

We’re going use a program called Jupyter that opens in your web browser and allows you to write notebooks that include Python code. Jupyter and other software you will need to take part in the course are freely available and you have two options.

Online CoCalc service

The advantages of using CoCalc are that you don’t have to install any software and you can work on the course exercises from anywhere there is an internet connection. The disadvantages are that you will need a good internet connection, running the code in your notebook may take time if there are many simultaneous users on CoCalc and you may occasionally lose the latest changes you make in your notebook, because the service will periodically reset.

However, since notebooks are regularly auto-saved, the risk of losing work should be rather small. CoCalc offers a paid plan that has better performance and stability than the free plan. The Open University and the authors have no commercial affiliation with CoCalc.

Install Anaconda package

The other option is to install on your laptop or desktop the free Anaconda package, which includes all necessary software for this course. If you plan to work on this course from multiple computers, you will need to install Anaconda on each one. You can use cloud storage, like Dropbox, to keep your notebooks in sync across machines. Anaconda doesn’t have the limitations of CoCalc, so we recommend you use Anaconda if you are going to work on this course always from the same computer.

You should now read the instructions for installing Anaconda or creating a CoCalc project [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] for this course. Don’t forget to test everything is working, as explained in the instructions.

The installation of Anaconda is different for Windows, Macs and Linux. Please follow the appropriate instructions.

We advise you to accept the pre-filled defaults suggested during the installation process.


Each week you will use two notebooks (and any necessary data files): an exercise notebook and a project notebook. The notebooks are this course’s programming environment, where you will do your own coding.

The exercise notebook contains all the code shown throughout the week, so that you can try it out for yourself, any time you wish. The exercise notebook also contains all the week’s exercises. You will be able to solve several exercises just by slightly modifying our code.

The project notebook contains the week’s written-up data analysis project, including all necessary code. If you have the extra time, you’re encouraged to modify the project notebooks to write up your own data analyses.

You should now download from here the notebooks and data files needed for the whole course. 

You’ll open the notebooks using Jupyter, which is part of Anaconda and CoCalc. You will learn how to use notebooks later this week, after you’ve seen what Python code looks like.

Note: please ensure that you abide by any terms and conditions associated with these pieces of software.