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From Synthetic to Real: How Using Actual Business Data Enhances Learning

In today’s world, where technology has become an integral part of businesses and organizations, the importance of working with data cannot be overstated. Data is being generated at a rapid pace from various sources such as websites, social media platforms, customer interactions, and devices. This massive amount of raw information requires analysis, interpretation, and visualization to derive insights that can help in decision-making processes. While there are several tools and techniques available for handling data, it’s essential to use real business data instead of synthetic or artificial datasets while learning these skills. In this article, we will explore why using real business data matters when learning to work with data.

Real Business Data Provides Context and Relevance:

Synthetic or artificial data sets may appear similar to real business data but lack context and relevance. These datasets might not reflect the complexities and nuances present in actual business scenarios. Real business data provides learners with practical examples and helps them understand how specific issues arise and what factors contribute to those problems. By analyzing real data, students can appreciate the complexity and variability associated with real-world situations. The data reflects trends, patterns, anomalies, and relationships between variables, which makes it more relatable than any fabricated dataset. It also helps individuals develop their critical thinking abilities by identifying gaps and areas of improvement within the organization.

Learning with Real Business Data Prepares Learners for the Workplace:

The primary aim of any academic course is to prepare learners for the workplace. When learners practice analytical skills through simulations or synthetic data, they may have difficulty adapting to real-life situations since the nature of the problem may differ significantly from what they learned during training sessions. Working with real business data prepares learners for the challenges they will face in their professional careers by exposing them to realistic scenarios. They get familiarized with different types of data, formats, sources, and structures encountered in industry settings. Through practical experience, they gain confidence and competence necessary to address real-world problems effectively.

Real Business Data Helps Develop Problem Solving Skills:

Data analytics is not just about applying mathematical models and statistical methods; rather, it involves a combination of technical and non-technical aspects. Analytics projects require a systematic approach, starting from defining the question, collecting relevant data, cleaning and preparing the data, modeling and interpreting results, presenting findings, and implementing recommendations. Using real business data allows learners to apply these steps iteratively, giving them hands-on experience in each phase of the project lifecycle. Such exposure enhances their ability to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and communicate ideas accurately. Moreover, dealing with real data presents unexpected twists and turns that challenge learners’ creativity and resourcefulness in finding solutions.

Collaboration and Teamwork:

Working with real business data demands collaboration among team members. A typical analytics project involves multiple stakeholders with varying levels of expertise, including domain experts, analysts, consultants, and developers. Each member brings unique perspectives and knowledge, making communication and coordination crucial for successful outcomes. Collaborative environments foster cross-functional skill development, encouraging learners to interact with people outside their disciplinary backgrounds. Interacting with subject matter experts enables learners to comprehend the context behind the numbers, making the insight generation process much more meaningful. Learning how to collaborate and work together efficiently facilitates effective team dynamics and promotes a culture of sharing and feedback within the group.

Accessibility and Availability of Data:

One significant advantage of using real business data is its accessibility and availability. Most large organizations generate vast amounts of structured and unstructured data regularly. With advancements in cloud computing technologies, storing and sharing big data across geographically dispersed locations has become relatively easy and cost-effective. Students who want to acquire new skills can easily find public datasets or request access to private ones based on mutual agreements with partner companies. Sharing of data amongst institutions can lead to openness, transparency, and innovation in teaching practices. Additionally, learners benefit from the rich variety of data found in diverse industries and domains, allowing them to broaden their horizons beyond their immediate fields of study.


To conclude, using real business data is essential while learning to work with data because it offers learners numerous benefits compared to using synthetic or artificial datasets. Real business data provides context and relevance, prepares learners for the workplace, helps develop problem solving skills, fosters collaboration and teamwork, and is accessible and available due to advances in technology. As digital literacy becomes increasingly important in the job market, employers expect candidates to possess strong analytic capabilities backed up by evidence gained via genuine business experiences. Therefore, educators should prioritize incorporating real-business data into their curricula to enable learners to master the art and science of data analytics.