The Academic Use Of Data Visualization
The ability to communicate is a quality that is required of any teacher. Analyzing, synthesizing and transmitting concepts using all the tools at their disposal has always been a daily task for any teacher. In recent years they have had new platforms to rely on for their development.
In this sense, data visualization allows for creating a communication channel with the student, better adapted to the stimuli to which they are accustomed, using new useful learning tools at all levels, from elementary to university. In addition, the analytical capacity of students is enhanced, which should be developed so much, but how can we apply data visualization correctly in education?
Before reviewing the best practices when creating an educational dashboard, we must remember the reasons and benefits why we should use it.
- It allows finding patterns in large amounts of data.
- It makes it easier to reach conclusions more quickly.
- It makes it possible to create narratives to rely on during explanations for educational use and to share them.
- It improves the analysis capacity of the students.
- Promotes the dissemination and impact of the information that is exposed.
- It facilitates decision-making thanks to the integrity and confidence provided by analytics.
And for this reason, for its correct application as a training tool, we must always keep in mind the advice that will make a scorecard reach students more effectively.
- Use familiar graphic representations, both in form and design, to not overload students or create a barrier in the transmission of information. A bar chart may seem simple, but it is accessible to everyone and makes it easy to learn.
- Remember that the narrative should be from left to right and top to bottom, order your dashboard to tell a story and put the most important data where the eye will go first.
- Data visualization makes it possible to be shorter, but teachers should also be so when using a dashboard. Do not exceed the figure of five graphs and lean on the interaction with the data that tools such as Power BI allow.
- Do not abuse legends or titles. The graph and the explanation as a teacher should be the guides to reach the correct conclusions. Too much text draws attention away from the visual object.
- Do not overdo the use of colors: It is tempting when we try to represent something visually to take advantage of all the resources we have, but to make it comfortable for the student, exceeding the number of 8 colors can saturate and cause lose patterns in the data.
- Test your data representations. How much time do your students need to understand the graph? If they cannot reach conclusions on their own, you may have to redefine your design to make it more accessible.
- Stay consistent. Repetition is an advantageous learning mechanism, and it will be easier to remember if you consistently apply the same font and color to the same idea. An example of this is the representations of political polls that we have all become accustomed to interpreting without the need for a verbal or text explanation to accompany the graph.
- And finally, trust your instinct. In the end, this is just one more tool to achieve the final objective: to accompany students in their academic growth. Therefore it has to be a comfortable resource to add to your classes or reports.
New Allies In The World Of Research
If we focus on the university environment, research can find the perfect ally in data visualization, not only in the search for answers but also in the subsequent graphical representation of the conclusions to make the results obtained more accessible.
During its development, data visualization helps to find patterns, filter data and focus on the points to study. In this phase, it is essential to learn to concentrate efforts in the right direction, and at this point, the use of data analytics can guide us on the right path. All the data obtained during the study that can be transferred to a visual object will allow the research to advance and other collaborators to participate in the analysis.
Once the study is finished, we must adapt the information to the format it will be published, either online or on paper. Data visualization will make it possible to extend the message’s reach and reach the interested parties more quickly. In the educational sector, the large amount of research and the small public that can make decisions based on it mean that the final design must be taken into account to favor the impact and possible virality of the published articles.
Power BI As A Data Visualization Tool
The dominance of Power BI among analytics and business intelligence platforms is already a constant, as we can see year after year in Gartner’s magic square that analyzes this type of tool. For this reason, it should be the first option you should consider when training the teaching team, another advantage being its easy connection with the Microsoft Office tools that are so daily for managers, teachers and students.
With Power BI, we can not only visualize large amounts of data, but we can also unify our analyzes in a single space and connect different users to the generated reports. In addition, for both educator and student, it allows you to start familiarizing yourself with terms such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Algorithms are included in different teaching subjects, not only scientific ones. Logic is one more aspect of philosophy that can be analyzed with data visualization, as can statistics or science.
As you climb the academic pyramid, whether you’re talking about training or a school’s organizational structure, turning knowledge into action allows you to create workflows and applications to improve everyone’s performance. In this case, the jump to the Power Platform, which combines Power BI with Power Apps and Power Automate, is the next step to take advantage of all the information we are working with. The implementation of such a tool must be seen as one more service and, therefore, be directed by a team of experts who know how to adapt its different functionalities to the final needs of the educational sector and accompany the adaptation process.
Other Applications Of Data Visualization In The Educational Sector
Can data visualization help us measure the teacher’s results or the student’s evolution? Data analytics starts by summarizing what has happened but can also, at the following levels, predict the results that are going to occur with current trends and leave us room to apply corrective measures. Teaching is a continuous improvement process for all the actors involved: teachers, students, researchers, professors, managers. And therefore, measuring their actions with the appropriate indicators can help improve their efficiency.
And it is that only the main objective of transmitting knowledge enters at this point. Following the evolution of students can prevent situations that are difficult to reverse once they reach a certain level. For this reason, having accurate information about how the centre’s academic activity is being carried out is the way to make decisions that improve student performance and satisfaction. Managers and teachers have a series of data that, processed through data analytics tools, allow the creation of operational, analytical and tactical dashboards to define the strategy of the entire centre. On the one hand, we can visually represent the correct management of resources and optimize schedules, calendars, tutorials, and budgets. And above all, we can provide the human team with new tools so that student monitoring is personalized and effective.
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