Universität Bielefeld Uses Tableau to Visualize Public Health Data

Students analyzed epidemiological data about rehabilitation patients in Germany. Mostly from non-technical backgrounds, the students were able to create an overall picture of the patients related to treatment duration, gender differences in treatment, and changes over time.

The (students), like me, were surprised by how fast they could find traction into Tableau.

Ralf Ulrich teaches Health Communication and Public Health at the Universität Bielefeld in Germany. He is also the Director of the Institute for Demography and Public Health Research.

Main learning objectives:

  • Enable students to understand basic principles of data analysis
  • Understand and learn how to use dashboards

Why did you choose to use Tableau?
I found Tableau mentioned on one of the Excel Forums I regularly visit. In the health system huge datasets are produced but often only poorly analyzed and used. Tableau provides easy access to data and various tools for analysis. This allows me to gain several extra miles in analyzing and visualizing demographic, epidemiological and administrative data in the health system without having to work weekends. My own experience with the learning curve for Tableau encouraged me to use it for this class.

How did you use Tableau in your BI course?
Students analyzed epidemiological data about rehabilitation patients in Germany. They had to connect to an Excel sheet and sort measures/dimensions. Then, they had to create various Tableau worksheets to analyze the contribution of various diseases to the overall picture, gender differences, average duration of treatment, age-specific prevalence, and its changes over time.

How did you learn how to use Tableau?
Mostly from the videos, some of them I had to watch a couple of times. I also had to provide examples for my students and in preparing them, learned a lot.

How did you teach Tableau to your students?
We spent 1/3 of the course learning about databases and pivot tables in Access/Excel. Then it was a mixture of lessons from me, videos on demand to watch from the Tableau website and exercises. The students will prepare a final assignment and present results to their peers from the course.

What were the biggest challenges of teaching Tableau?

Only a few students had an understanding of databases (relations, normalization) in the beginning and had never heard from pivot tables or dashboards before. My students are mostly non-technical.

What type of feedback do you receive from your students?

They, like me, were surprised how fast they could find traction into Tableau. All of them understood the enormous potential of Tableau for the analysis of huge datasets.

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