Think for a second about employees in diamond mines. Their job can often seem like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But once they find what they’re looking for, the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming.
The situation is similar with data mining. Granted, you’re not on the hunt for diamonds (although that wouldn’t be so bad). The concept’s name may suggest otherwise, but data mining isn’t about extracting data. What you’re mining are patterns; you analyze datasets and try to see whether there’s a trend.
Data mining doesn’t involve you reading thousands of pages. This process is automatic (or at least semi-automatic). The patterns discovered with data mining are often seen as input data, meaning it’s used for further analysis and research. Data mining has become a vital part of machine learning and artificial intelligence as a whole. If you think this is too abstract and complex, you should know that data mining has found its purpose for every company. Investigating trends, prices, sales, and customer behavior is important for any business that sells products or services.
In this article, we’ll cover different data mining techniques and explain the entire process in more detail.
Data Mining Techniques
Here are the most popular data mining techniques.
As you can assume, this technique classifies something (datasets). Through classification, you can organize vast datasets into clear categories and turn them into classifiers (models) for further analysis.
In this case, data is divided into clusters according to a certain criterion. Each cluster should contain similar data points that differ from data points in other clusters.
If we look at clustering from the perspective of artificial intelligence, we say it’s an unsupervised algorithm. This means that human involvement isn’t necessary for the algorithm to discover common features and group data points according to them.
Association Rule Learning
This technique discovers interesting connections and associations in large datasets. It’s pretty common in sales, where companies use it to explore customers’ behaviors and relationships between different products.
This technique is based on the principle that the past can help you understand the future. It explores patterns in past data to make assumptions about the future and make new observations.
This is pretty self-explanatory. Here, datasets are analyzed to identify “ugly ducklings,” i.e., unusual patterns or patterns that deviate from the standard.
Sequential Pattern Mining
With this technique, you’re also on the hunt for patterns. The “sequential” indicates that you’re analyzing data where the values are in a sequence.
Text mining involves analyzing unstructured text, turning it into a structured format, and checking for patterns.
This data mining technique is also called opinion mining, and it’s very different from the methods discussed above. This complex technique involves natural language processing, linguistics, and speech analysis and wants to discover the emotional tone in a text.
Data Mining Process
Regardless of the technique you’re using, the data process consists of several stages that ensure accuracy, efficiency, and reliability.
As mentioned, data mining isn’t actually about identifying data but about exploring patterns within the data. To do that, you obviously need a dataset you want to analyze. The data needs to be relevant, otherwise you won’t get accurate results.
Whether you’re analyzing a small or large dataset, the data within it could be in different formats or have inconsistencies or errors. If you want to analyze it properly, you need to ensure the data is uniform and organized, meaning you need to preprocess it.
This stage involves several processes:
- Data cleaning
- Data transformation
- Data reduction
Once you complete them, your data will be prepared for analysis.
You’ve come to the “main” part of the data mining process, which consists of two elements:
- Model building
- Model evaluation
Model building represents determining the most efficient ways to analyze the data and identify patterns. Think of it this way: you’re asking questions, and the model should be able to provide the correct answers.
The next step is model evaluation, where you’ll step back and think about the model. Is it the right fit for your data, and does it meet your criteria?
Interpretation and Visualization
The journey doesn’t end after the analysis. Now it’s time to review the results and come to relevant conclusions. You’ll also need to present these conclusions in the best way possible, especially if you conducted the analysis for someone else. You want to ensure that the end-user understands what was done and what was discovered in the process.
Deployment and Integration
You’ve conducted the analysis, interpreted the results, and now you understand what needs to be changed. You’ll use the knowledge you’ve gained to elicit changes.
For example, you’ve analyzed your customers’ behaviors to understand why the sales of a specific product dropped. The results showed that people under the age of 30 don’t buy it as often as they used to. Now, you face two choices: You can either advertise the product and focus on the particular age group or attract even more people over the age of 30 if that makes more sense.
Applications of Data Mining
The concept of data mining may sound too abstract. However, it’s all around us. The process has proven invaluable in many spheres, from sales to healthcare and finance.
Here are the most common applications of data mining.
Customer Relationship Management
Your customers are the most important part of your business. After all, if it weren’t for them, your company wouldn’t have anyone to sell the products/services to. Yes, the quality of your products is one way to attract and keep your customers. But quality won’t be enough if you don’t value your customers.
Whether they’re buying a product for the first or the 100th time, your customers want to know you want to keep them. Some ways to do so are discounts, sales, and loyalty programs. Coming up with the best strategy can be challenging to say the least, especially if you have many customers belonging to different age groups, gender, and spending habits. With data mining, you can group your customers according to specific criteria and offer them deals that suit them perfectly.
In this case, you analyze data not to find patterns but to find something that stands out. This is what banks do to ensure no unwanted guests are accessing your account. But you can also see this fraud detection in the business world. Many companies use it to identify and remove fake accounts.
Market Basket Analysis
With data mining, you can get answers to an important question: “Which items are often bought together?” If this is on your mind, data mining can help. You can perform the association technique to discover the patterns (for example, milk and cereal) and use this valuable intel to offer your customers top-notch recommendations.
Healthcare and Medical Research
The healthcare industry has benefited immensely from data mining. The process is used to improve decision-making, generate conclusions, and check whether a treatment is working. Thanks to data mining, diagnoses have become more precise, and patients get more quality services.
As medical research and drug testing are large parts of moving the entire industry forward, data mining found its role here, too. It’s used to keep track of and reduce the risk of side effects of different medications and assist in administration.
Social Media Analysis
This is definitely one of the most lucrative applications. Social media platforms rely on it to pick up more information about their users to offer them relevant content. Thanks to this, people who use the same network will often see completely different posts. Let’s say you love dogs and often watch videos about them. The social network you’re on will recognize this and offer you even more dog videos. If you’re a cat person and avoid dog videos at all costs, the algorithm will “understand” this and offer you more videos starring cats.
Finance and Banking
Data mining analyzes markets to discover hidden patterns and make accurate predictions. The process is also used to check a company’s health and see what can be improved.
In banking, data mining is used to detect unusual transactions and prevent unauthorized access and theft. It can analyze clients and determine whether they’re suitable for loans (whether they can pay them back).
Challenges and Ethical Considerations of Data Mining
While it has many benefits, data mining faces different challenges:
- Privacy concerns – During the data mining process, sensitive and private information about users can come to light, thus jeopardizing their privacy.
- Data security – The world’s hungry for knowledge, and more and more data is getting collected and analyzed. There’s always a risk of data breaches that could affect millions of people worldwide.
- Bias and discrimination – Like humans, algorithms can be biased, but only if the sample data leads them toward such behavior. You can prevent this with precise data collection and preprocessing.
- Legal and regulatory compliance – Data mining needs to be conducted according to the letter of the law. If that’s not the case, the users’ privacy and your company’s reputation are at stake.
Track Trends With Data Mining
If you feel lost and have no idea what your next step should be, data mining can be your life support. With it, you can make informed decisions that will drive your company forward.
Considering its benefits, data mining will continue to be an invaluable tool in many niches.
Soon, we will be launching four new Degrees for AY24-25 at OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
I want to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Product Definition process that has shaped these upcoming programs.
🚀 Phase 1: Discovery (Late May – End of July)
Our journey began with intensive brainstorming sessions with OPIT’s Academic Board (Francesco Profumo, Lorenzo Livi, Alexiei Dingli, Andrea Pescino, Rosario Maccarrone) . We also conducted 50+ interviews with tech and digital entrepreneurs (both from startups and established firms), academics and students. Finally, we deep-dived into the “Future of Jobs 2023” report by the World Economic Forum and other valuable research.
🔍 Phase 2: Selection – Crafting Our Roadmap (July – August)
Our focus? Introducing new degrees addressing critical workforce shortages and upskilling/reskilling needs for the next 5-10 years, promising significant societal impact and a broad market reach.
Our decision? To channel our energies on full BScs and MScs, and steer away from shorter courses or corporate-focused offerings. This aligns perfectly with our core mission.
💡 Focus Areas Unveiled!
We’re thrilled to concentrate on pivotal fields like:
- Advanced AI
- Digital Business
- Metaverse & Gaming
- Cloud Computing (less “glamorous”, but market demand is undeniable).
🎓 Phase 3: Definition – Shaping the Degrees (August – November)
With an expert in each of the above fields, and with the strong collaboration of our Academic Director, Prof. Lorenzo Livi , we embarked on a rigorous “drill-down process”. Our goal? To meld modern theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge competencies and skills. This phase included interviewing over 60+ top academics, industry professionals, and students and get valuable, program-specific, insights from our Marketing department.
🌟 Phase 4: Accreditation and Launch – The Final Stretch
We’re currently in the accreditation process, gearing up for the launch. The focus is now shifting towards marketing, working closely with Greta Maiocchi and her Marketing and Admissions team. Together, we’re translating our new academic offering into a compelling value proposition for the market.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Far from being a temporary educational measure that came into its own during the pandemic, online education is providing students from all over the world with new ways to learn. That’s proven by statistics from Oxford Learning College, which point out that over 100 million students are now enrolled in some form of online course.
The demand for these types of courses clearly exists.
In fact, the same organization indicates that educational facilities that introduce online learning see a 42% increase in income – on average – suggesting that the demand is there.
Enter the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT).
Delivering three online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and two Master’s degrees – with more to come, OPIT is positioning itself as a leader in the online education space. But why is that? After all, many institutions are making the jump to e-learning, so what separates OPIT from the pack?
Here, you’ll discover the answers as you delve into the five reasons why you should trust OPIT for your online education.
Reason 1 – A Practical Approach
OPIT focuses on computer science education – a field in which theory often dominates the educational landscape. The organization’s Rector, Professor Francesco Profumo, makes this clear in a press release from June 2023. He points to a misalignment between what educators are teaching computer science students and what the labor market actually needs from those students as a key problem.
“The starting point is the awareness of the misalignment,” he says when talking about how OPIT structures its online courses. “That so-called mismatch is generated by too much theory and too little practical approach.” In other words, students in many classes spend far too much time learning the “hows” and “whys” behind computerized systems without actually getting their hands dirty with real work that gives them practical experience in using those systems.
OPIT takes a different approach.
It has developed a didactic approach that focuses far more on the practical element than other courses. That approach is delivered through a combination of classroom sessions – such as live lessons and masterclasses – and practical work offered through quizzes and exercises that mimic real-world situations.
An OPIT student doesn’t simply learn how computers work. They put their skills into practice through direct programming and application, equipping them with skills that are extremely attractive to major employers in the tech field and beyond.
Reason 2 – Flexibility Combined With Support
Flexibility in how you study is one of the main benefits of any online course.
You control when you learn and how you do it, creating an environment that’s beneficial to your education rather than being forced into a classroom setting with which you may not feel comfortable. This is hardly new ground. Any online educational platform can claim that it offers “flexibility” simply because it provides courses via the web.
Where OPIT differs is that it combines that flexibility with unparalleled support bolstered by the experiences of teachers employed from all over the world. The founder and director of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo, sheds more light on this difference in approach when he says, “We believe that education, even if it takes place physically at a distance, must guarantee closeness on all other aspects.” That closeness starts with the support offered to students throughout their entire study period.
Tutors are accessible to students at all times. Plus, every participant benefits from weekly professor interactions, ensuring they aren’t left feeling stuck on an educational “island” and have to rely solely on themselves for their education. OPIT further counters the potential isolation that comes with online learning with a Student Support team to guide students through any difficulties they may have with their courses.
In this focus on support, OPIT showcases one of its main differences from other online platforms.
You don’t simply receive course material before being told to “get on with it.” You have the flexibility to learn at your own pace while also having a support structure that serves as a foundation for that learning.
Reason 3 – OPIT Can Adapt to Change Quickly
The field of computer science is constantly evolving.
In the 2020s alone, we’ve seen the rise of generative AI – spurred on by the explosive success of services like ChatGPT – and how those new technologies have changed the way that people use computers.
Riccardo Ocleppo has seen the impact that these constant evolutions have had on students. Before founding OPIT, he was an entrepreneur who received first-hand experience of the fact that many traditional educational institutions struggle to adapt to change.
“Traditional educational institutions are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and trends within the educational sector,” he says. He points to computer science as a particular issue, highlighting the example of a board in Italy of which he is a member. That board – packed with some of the country’s most prestigious tech universities – spent three years eventually deciding to add just two modules on new and emerging technologies to their study programs.
That left Ocleppo feeling frustrated.
When he founded OPIT, he did so intending to make it an adaptable institution in which courses were informed by what the industry needs. Every member of its faculty is not only a superb teacher but also somebody with experience working in industry. Speaking of industry, OPIT collaborates with major companies in the tech field to ensure its courses deliver the skills that those organizations expect from new candidates.
This confronts frustration on both sides. For companies, an OPIT graduate is one for which they don’t need to bridge a “skill gap” between what they’ve learned and what the company needs. For you, as a student, it means that you’re developing skills that make you a more desirable prospect once you have your degree.
Reason 4 – OPIT Delivers Tier One Education
Despite their popularity, online courses can still carry a stigma of not being “legitimate” in the face of more traditional degrees. Ocleppo is acutely aware of this fact, which is why he’s quick to point out that OPIT always aims to deliver a Tier One education in the computer science field.
“That means putting together the best professors who create superb learning material, all brought together with a teaching methodology that leverages the advancements made in online teaching,” he says.
OPIT’s degrees are all accredited by the European Union to support this approach, ensuring they carry as much weight as any other European degree. It’s accredited by both the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF), with all of its courses having full legal value throughout Europe.
It’s also here where we see OPIT’s approach to practicality come into play via its course structuring.
Take its Bachelor’s degree in computer science as an example.
Yes, that course starts with a focus on theoretical and foundational knowledge. Building a computer and understanding how the device processes instructions is vital information from a programming perspective. But once those foundations are in place, OPIT delivers on its promises of covering the most current topics in the field.
Machine learning, cloud computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity – all valuable to employers – are taught at the undergraduate level. Students benefit from a broader approach to computer science than most institutions are capable of, rather than bogging them down in theory that serves little practical purpose.
Reason 5 – The Learning Experience
Let’s wrap up by honing in on what it’s actually like for students to learn with OPIT.
After all, as Ocleppo points out, one of the main challenges with online education is that students rarely have defined checkpoints to follow. They can start feeling lost in the process, confronted with a metaphorical ocean of information they need to learn, all in service of one big exam at the end.
Alternatively, some students may feel the temptation to not work through the materials thoroughly, focusing instead on passing a final exam. The result is that those students may pass, but they do so without a full grasp of what they’ve learned – a nightmare for employers who already have skill gaps to handle.
OPIT confronts both challenges by focusing on a continuous learning methodology. Assessments – primarily practical – take place throughout the course, serving as much-needed checkpoints for evaluating progress. When combined with the previously mentioned support that OPIT offers, this approach has led to courses that are created from scratch in service of the student’s actual needs.
Choose OPIT for Your Computer Science Education
At OPIT, the focus lies as much on helping students to achieve their dream careers as it does on teaching them. All courses are built collaboratively. With a dedicated faculty combined with major industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, it delivers materials that bridge the skill gap seen in the computer science field today.
There’s also more to come.
Beyond the three degrees OPIT offers, the institution plans to add more. Game development, data science, and cloud computing, to name a few, will receive dedicated degrees in the coming months, accentuating OPIT’s dedication to adapting to the continuous evolution of the computer science industry. Discover OPIT today – your journey into computing starts with the best online education institution available.