Creating data visualizations is a great way to analyze, explore, and learn from data about learners and their performance. Data visualizations can help L&D teams understand the effectiveness of the training and tools they’ve created; and, within eLearning, data visualizations can present complex information in easy-to-understand charts and graphs. Fortunately for the budget-strapped designer, several free tools are available for creating data visualizations for eLearning. Here’s an overview of a few that stand out.
Flourish offers multiple free templates to create a variety of data visualization types in both the free and paid versions. In the free version, though, all data and visualizations are publicly visible.
Using Flourish, it’s possible to create data stories that have multiple visualizations. Embed the results in online content; they will work on desktop and mobile devices of all sizes.
Flourish is easy to use, with drag and drop functionality and menus to select features, add and revise labels, and more. An online tutorial offers instruction, but the explanations of individual features and parameters are weak.
Created and maintained by graduate students and faculty at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, iNZight is a basic data analysis tool that was first used to teach high school students to explore data.
Downloadable and online versions make iNZight available on many devices; it is an open-source tool with versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. It is free, and users can download their visualizations and export them in several formats. Designers can change the colors and other aspects of their visualizations in iNZight or they can export a visualization in a graphics format and edit the design in another program.
Use iNZight to dynamically create scatter plots, bar charts, or dot plots, depending on the number and type of variables. With iNZight, it’s easy to “subset” data to create a series of graphs showing the data for each region separately, for example. The program also shows a box-and-whisker plot, which visualizes the median and the range of values making up the “interquartile” or twenty-fifth percentile through seventy-fifth percentile.
While iNZight offers only a few basic chart formats, it does offer greater control over data and results than Flourish. The iNZight website offers user guides in text and video formats, and extremely responsive customer support by email.
Of the three free data visualization tools described here, Tableau Public is definitely the powerhouse. The free version is downloadable and offers rich options. The website offers a complete library of excellent tutorials that break down the creation of different types of visualizations into easy chunks, and a gallery showcases examples of visualizations created using Tableau Public. The session replay for “What Now? Using Data Visualizations to Make Sense of Data,” from The eLearning Guild’s 2018 Data & Analytics Summit includes a short demo of Tableau Public. The replay is available to all Guild members with plus or premium content packages.
Tableau offers several paid software products, but the free version is a great place to start. With Tableau Public, it’s easy to create many different types of visualizations. Import data from Excel or from several other formats—or connect to data in an online source, such as Google Sheets. However, all visualizations (and their data) are public once saved in Tableau Public.
Using Tableau Public, a developer can:
- Create visualizations in dozens of formats
- Create series of related visualizations based on the same dataset
- Connect datasets and create visualizations that pull from both
- Clean and “pivot” data within Tableau
Tableau Public’s drag-and-drop functionality is intuitive and easy to learn. Developers have a lot of control over how each variable is mapped, what colors and typefaces are used, and other aspects of the visual design. A user community, FAQs, and the tutorials provide any needed assistance.
Data Storytelling in eLearning
Additional free tools aid storytelling in eLearning, using data, audio and video, and text content. Build engaging eLearning that incorporates elements like data visualizations, timelines, before-and-after comparisons, and integrated audio clips using the tools described above and the Knight Lab’s free interactive storytelling tools. Using data visualizations in eLearning is an easy and inexpensive way to raise the bar. Get started today creating data visualizations to offer learners appealing new formats and present complex information in easy-to-understand graphical representations.
Dive deeper into the ways data can enhance eLearning and performance support, as well as measure and demonstrate the effectiveness of training: DevLearn 2018 Conference & Expo will feature a dedicated Data & Measurement track. Register now!