Data Analysis: Take It to the MAX() is a MOOC on data analysis using spreadsheets, based on the on-campus MSc course Programming and Data Science for the 99% . The MOOC focuses on helping students, researchers and working professionals all over the world, also in countries where access to education is scarce, overcome data analysis challenges in their work and become more effective in the use of data. The course has basic entry requirements (knowledge of using spreadsheets) but has strong benefits for beginners as well as for advanced users of spreadsheets.

The course design emphasizes creating an optimal learning experience for its students. This is achieved by careful content planning: basic knowledge is shared at the beginning of the course with a gradual progress to more difficult techniques. In addition, the course introduces the learners to new methods and technologies besides spreadsheets (such as Python, Neo4J), helping the learners to broaden their data analysis skills.
Course delivery is through video lectures and hands-on exercises using downloadable spreadsheets. Applicability is ensured by deliberately including data based on real-world data analysis challenges. Continuity is achieved by basing the practical exercises on the same data as the data used in the video lecture.

As an experiment, TU Delft used this MOOC in a training module for a large management consulting and IT services corporation in The Netherlands. Participants highly appreciated this blended corporate training.
The MOOC itself provided a unique opportunity for scientific research: thousands of students voluntarily participated in a research experiment about spreadsheets, of which the results will be used for course improvement.

Future use of the MOOC includes a blended version of the aforementioned on-campus MSc course; and an additional version for working professionals, with more extensive examples of data analysis challenges.



Data analysis is for everybody! People need it in school, in their profession and in daily life. The objective of this on-line course is to enable people all over the world to learn and benefit from spreadsheets, which makes their lives so much easier and productive, and results in better business decisions. A so-called €˜Bacon challenge€™ is introduced even before the course starts to get students started with a first data set in which they apply their current skills. The data concerns movies with actors linked to Kevin Bacon. During the remainder of the course, the Bacon Challenge example returns regularly to enable students to monitor their progress. In addition, students are asked to post an 'Excelfie€™': a picture of themselves with their favorite Excel sheet, to engage them and to build the community. Thousands of excelfies were posted by students from all over the world (

The objective of this type of course design and delivery is to scale the highly relevant data analysis skills for learners all over the world, while at the same time personally engaging students to get the best out of their learning experience, by appealing on their personal involvement (Excelfie) and making the course content highly applicable (many practical examples, such as the Bacon Challenge).


Compared to the on-campus original, the MOOC is completely redesigned, with a strong focus on creating an optimal learning experience for students. A group of students is involved in redesigning the MOOC. A steeper learning curve was achieved by rebalancing the amount of learning content released over time, and by structuring the order of learning content in order to have new knowledge build on existing knowledge. The learning content consists of video lectures and hands-on exercises with downloadable spreadsheets, based on real live practical examples. The design of the assignments ensures that students feel that they are working closely together with lecturer Felienne Hermans. For example, they work together to solve a problem: the student makes adjustments in in his own spreadsheet; the lecturer shows the corrected spreadsheet and thanks the student for improving the spreadsheet. This approach, in combination with the great enthusiasm and deep technological knowledge of the lecturer, results in a highly personalized and engaging learning experience for students.

Throughout the entire course, students are encouraged to discuss homework assignments and course content on forums. Teaching assistants from Delft University, as well as Community Teaching assistants from a variety of countries were available 24/7 to respond to student questions.

Furthermore, the MOOC is used in a group of eleven employees of a large management consulting and IT services corporation in a blended learning setting. The eleven corporate learners take the MOOC and come together in the evenings to discuss course content and apply it to their own business cases, supervised by a corporate trainer. The trainer collaborated closely with the lecturer and on the last evening, Felienne Hermans participated in the session to further discuss with the group. The learners were all very excited to meet the lecturer they had only seen on their laptops in person.


Besides the lecturer, a group of 5 TU Delft student assistants are involved in preparing and running the course. In addition, Community Teaching Assistants were appointed. These are students in the MOOC whose forum contributions are correct, positive and enthusiastic. The Course Team selects and asks them for their new role during the first two weeks of the course, and gives them a Community TA banner and access to a special chat box with the Course Team. As they are from all over the world, 24/7 accessibility is granted.

MOOCs are known for their high drop out rates, but this course has a remarkable high completion rate, without making concessions to the level or content. Obviously, the lecturer has been very successful in engaging students until the end of the course. Felienne Hermans makes online students feel that they are part of the TU Delft campus community: "Even though you're not here with us on campus, doing this MOOC will still make you part of the Delft family. In this building that I normally work on the 8th floor, we have the Spreadsheet Lab. This is my research group where we work with a bunch of people on making spreadsheets easier and more fun."

By incorporating Felienne’s own personal data problems, e.g. in her hobbies as a movie fan and inviting students to think about the data problems they encounter in their everyday live, the course learnings become truly applicable.


33,519 students enroll for the course, 2,190 receive a certificate (6,54%). This is a very high completion rate for a MOOC. These numbers mean nothing without looking at the actual impact on the student'€™s real world. Students are questioned: '€œPlease indicate to which extend you can apply the knowledge learned in this course in you work or study?' (N=785). 57% of these students state the course is applicable (33%) or very applicable (24%) to their work or study. Only 2% state that it was not applicable or too difficult to apply in work or study. The rest mentions "potentially applicable"€™ (18%) or "somewhat applicable"€™ (22%).
Some quotes from her students in the survey: excellent course, excellent response time, brilliant, admire her style of teaching, great job in teaching, please provide information about your graduate program, Felienne Rocks, kept course lively, fun, lecturer with lots of energy! Talking about true impact: one student mentions being the only one in his village with Internet, but being able to spread the learning with the rest of his African village.

Felienne has created fans when it comes to her online students, besides the positive and enthusiastic feedback in the evaluation survey she receives numerous of compliments about her course via Twitter and on the MOOC Forum (attached).

Furthermore, Felienne asks her students to voluntarily participate in data research. In total 100,000 clicks are received of higher quality due to the specific target audience with Excel expertise. The research team used the data to check algorithms and improve them based on these €˜'click behaviors'.

Regarding the company initiative all students are ecstatic about the course in combination with face-to-face training. On average (N= 8) the graded Felienne with a 9.125 (on a scale of 1 to 10) and all would recommend the course to colleagues.

Next Steps

In September Felienne reruns the MOOC. Already over 2,000 students have registered. As Felienne states "after a MOOC you will never become the same on-campus teacher ever again. The material for the MOOC is really well polished and developed, and it would be a pity not to use this on campus too". Therefore Felienne is innovating the course to a blended format for her Master students. It enables students to choose their own learning track. When the MOOC is offered simultaneously with the on campus course, the Delft students can help as community TAs. Felienne will use the learning analytics data of the campus students that participate in the MOOC and analyze their study behavior and performance. The results will enable her to even further improve her campus course. With students watching the comprehensive videos, Felienne can spend more time on one-on-one guidance with her students (flipping the classroom entirely!). This blended approach is a model TU Delft implements for practically all of its online courses/ MOOCs.

Another follow-up task for Felienne is the development of an on-line ProfEd (professional education) course. She receives many requests from her students and has gained a lot more insight as to what kind of knowledge and expertise is lacking in the working field to be able to design a course based on the professional's wishes. Students can follow the MOOC for the deep technical knowledge, and than bring in their personal business cases, The ProfEd counts a smaller number of students leaving more room for interaction.

The many requests and suggestions for a follow up, can easily be used to benefit from in developing the re-run MOOC, the blended course and the ProfEd course. So Felienne can Excel even more in her teaching delivery!

Other Information

PDF - Click to download
YouTube Video - The Bacon Challenge - pre-assignment to engage students upfront
YouTube Video - Last lecture movie (incl. student info and learnings)
Project Website - Project homepage (feel free to enroll and scroll through material and student feedback and Excelfies)
Image Gallery - Image of all the students (Excelfie mosaic)
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