University of Central Lancashire students find stories in big data



University of Central Lancashire is a public university based in Preston, Lancashire, England. Michael Brightman, Lecturer in Economics at the university, wanted his students to go beyond simple analysis to explore stories within data. He needed a long-term solution, enhancing students’ skill sets for their future careers.

Michael started using Tableau for his own research to find outliers within statistical data. With Tableau Academic programs, Michael received free licenses for himself and his students to explore economics data.

With Tableau, students create filters, explore outliers, and find value in complex data sets. Michael explains, “If you imagine that something could be done then it's very likely that Tableau will be able to do it.”


Tableau: What drove you to bring Tableau into your classroom?
Michael Brightman, Lecturer in Economics: As an economist I'm interested in numbers. But numbers need a context and we need to understand what the number actually means. We need to be able to visualize what data is showing us.

And so I needed a tool that enabled me to look at the data and for me to discover the stories within it without the background knowledge of computer science. And Tableau's functionality in that respect is ideal not just for me, but for the students whom I teach and I would suggest for other academics, as well.

Tableau: Has the program been successful?
Michael: What I say to my students is if you imagine that something actually could be done then it's very likely that Tableau will be able to do it.

With large data sets often the story itself is not obvious. But because of the ease of use and the speed at which Tableau operates, it's possible to search for a story in the data, just by clicking a different visualizations and drilling down to different levels.

I'm very grateful for the benefits that Tableau for Teaching gives for my students and the courses that I operate. For the student it gives them a cost-free introduction to Tableau, which they're able to use at home.

Tableau: What are your thoughts about the Tableau academic programs?
Michael: I'm very grateful for the benefits that Tableau for Teaching gives my students and the courses which I operate. For the student, it gives them a cost-free introduction to Tableau, which they're able to use at home. And therefore, for them to have a copy that's available for their home PC or laptop is invaluable.

My thought process is I'm not selling Tableau to my students to take to their colleagues. What I'm selling is the university, because if those students go into their company and because of that they use Tableau, I've sold the university, because that insight came from my teaching.



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