“We help people see and understand their data. Eight words that drive everything we do. And they’ve never been more important.” -Tableau
Stage 1: Selection of the Tools
Tableau is a data visualization software that promises to make analyzing data easier. With this promise in mind, I registered for the two day classroom training in Fremont, hopeful that I would know Tableau well enough to share it with faculty at the University of Puget Sound. I was late to my first day of training; I was a bundle of nerves between fighting the traffic, finding parking, walking to the wrong building, and casually (bang bang clang clang) finding a seat in the two-day Tableau training that had already started. Blunders aside, I truly wasn’t excited for my mind to be Tab-blown. I’ve always hated the excuse “I’m not a math person,” but I had it ready to go since registering for the training. Truthfully, I’m not a “connections” person; I struggle to make the connections between lots of data and blanket statements without squinting and googling.
In higher education, students are encourage to make connections between data. Tableau helps students gain real-world experience by providing them with opportunities to analyze and break down data to make arguments, forcast trends, and connect to their world. Tableau was chosen as a data visualization tool at the University of Puget Sound for this reason.
Stage 2: Experimentation with the Tool
In the two day training, we were given a workbook with directions and examples of different data visualizations, as well as a thumb drive with sample data to work with. As an Educational Technologist, I came to the training armed with theories and questions, unsure of exact possibilities of how it could be used at my university but determined to know it well enough that I could apply my knowledge to any situation. The range of participants in the training was vast, from district-level educators who wanted to use Tableau to track teacher TPEP scores, to an American Airlines analyst who wanted to see which airlines had the most activity. While many of the examples given to us centered on exploring profits and budgets of an imaginary company, the trainer easily related what we were learning to dozens of different scenarios and personal experiences.
Stage 3: Framework Evaluation
Tableau was chosen at the University of Puget Sound by a mix of faculty, staff, and deans at the request of those who wanted to use it to improve coursework and campus operations. When choosing to use Tableau over other data visualization platforms, the following was taken into consideration:
- Though Tableau is more pricey for a campus-wide liscense, it’s range of use both inside the classroom and to organize campus operations outweigh the cost.
- User Interface
- There are limitless options regarding how you can manipulate your data. While this can be confusing to those who are untrained, the usability is actually very varied.
- Tableau offers an excellent support system that extends beyond customer support and into a network of Tableau users and experts around the world.
- Thanks to the support and mix of cloud and server-based usability and shareability, Tableau is easy to support.
Stage 4: Reflection & Future Benefits
I was grateful for the practice and the examples sets of data to play and experiment with. A huge plus of the training is that it did feel like we were exploring. The former teacher in me wants to use the teacher jargon of working towards mastery. I didn’t and don’t think complete mastery of Tableau is essential to use Tableau. A willingness to jump in, learn best practices, and ask for help is key. Our trainer highlighted Tableau’s excellent support community that included both Tableau support staff and online support experts (“Are You as Tableau-Smart as a Tableau Consultant?” walks through how an Environmental Science major became a Tableau expert with little background experience). In addition to classroom trainings, Tableau offers free training videos and live online training opportunities.
The strongest example I have seen of using Tableau in higher education is from Kristin Sosulski’s training on teaching with Tableau. In her training, she focuses on teaching students to tell data-driven stories with data visualizations, including best practices of storytelling using data, techniques for helping humans see the key takeaways from visuals, using Tableau to turn complicated data into visuals, and how to design a university level course using data driven storytelling. After my two day classroom training and a plan to continue to progress through Tableau’s level of trainings, we can now offer Tableau trainings to faculty and students who wish to use the tool in their courses.
What became clear in the two day training is that Tableau was created to be used by anyone and everyone. Tableau is a data visualization software that promises to make analyzing data easier, and it delivers on that promise by making data visually appealing, easy to decipher, and focused on best practices in analyzing and delivering data. While you can learn Tableau, you will never fully learn the range of possibilities because there isn’t a cap; there is no limit on what you can do with it.
Academic Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2016, from http://www.tableau.com/academic
Shonk, B. (2015, October 23). Are You as Tableau-Smart as a Tableau Consultant? Retrieved June 07, 2016, from http://www.tableau.com/about/blog/2015/10/are-you-tableau-smart-tableau-consultant-45195
Sosulski, K. (n.d.). Teaching with Tableau: Showing insights and telling data-driven stories. Retrieved June 02, 2016, from http://www.tableau.com/learn/webinars/teaching-tableau-showing-insights-and-telling-data-driven-stories?utm_campaign=TFT – Sosulski webinar followup – GLOBAL en-US – 2016-05-02
Classroom Training. (n.d.). Retrieved June 06, 2016, from https://www.tableau.com/learn/classroom