InsideTrack works with a broad range of colleges and universities to improve successful outcomes—for the students and for the institutions, including Penn State University, Arizona State University, and Columbia University. In this video, Eric Rynerson, Director of Analytics, Product Management for InsideTrack, talks about how he uses Tableau to get people excited about answering their own questions through data.
Tableau: Can you tell us a little bit about InsideTrack’s data and what you’re doing with it?
Eric Rynerson, Director of Analytics, Product Management: Well, we have a lot of data. We have a lot of data about students. We have a lot of data about our coaching activity with students. And we have a lot of data about students' progress in school, which is really the point of all the work we do.
And so we needed to be able to really explore the data and really just see what's happening. And that's something that is hard to do with other tools. And so when I found Tableau, it was very clear that I found something that was going to give us a lot of freedom that we wouldn't have and allow us to really get a feel for the data.
Most of our data is on a SQL Server. We also have other sources—everything from Survey Monkey to Salesforce to the usual wild thicket of spreadsheets. We connect to all of it.
One of the big things we want to understand is where is our impact concentrated? And so that feeds everything from day-to-day insights to predictive models that we build. And then we use Tableau as well to make sure that the predictive models are actually scoring students correctly.
Tableau: InsideTrack is using Tableau to share data with educational coaches and others within your company. In your opinion, what’s the benefit of enabling this self-service data exploration?
Eric Rynerson, Director of Analytics, Product Management: I don't want it to just be: Analyst does some work. Analyst tells people about the data. Somebody asks a question—Well, what time can you meet next week? I'll bring some more slides.
(With Tableau) It's—let's just talk about it right now. And then you're going to go and find things out when I'm working on something else. Frankly, you're going to be making progress.
InsideTrack uses Tableau to understand and communicate important information such as students’ testing patterns
Tableau: Sometimes people can be surprised to discover that analyzing data in Tableau is actually fun. What’s the benefit of making data exploration fun?
The thing about Tableau being fun is that—it's not just that it’s more enjoyable to do your day-to-day job. It's that it attracts more people to the data. And when people actually like interacting with the data, they engage in it.
Eric: The thing about Tableau being fun is that—it's not just that it’s more enjoyable to do your day-to-day job. It’s that it attracts more people to the data. And when people actually like interacting with the data, they engage in it.
They show up for the beautiful visualization, but they stay for the insight. So what you really want to do is get people ‘addicted’ to the data by making it interactive, making it fun, allowing them to find things on their own.
We want people to engage with data, and when it's fun to engage with data, people do it. And the more you engage with data, the more your data quality improves, the more people ask the right questions. It’s a virtuous cycle.
The reality is (that) people only have so much time in a day. So it's not just that you save time—you actually do things you wouldn't have done.