Tableau visualisation

Tableau wants to help journalism students 'explore data quickly'

Credit: Tableau visualisation created by We Ain't Got No History
Data visualisation platform Tableau this week announced that it was making its Tableau Desktop software open to students for free.

Tableau Desktop is one of the products offered by the data outlet which helps users dive into data, find stories and produce visualisations.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, senior product consultant at Tableau Andy Cotgreave said a key difference between Tableau Desktop and its already free Tableau Public platform is that the Desktop version enables users to "keep the work locally rather than have to share it publicly".

He said the decision to make it free to students worldwide was prompted by the volume of "data-driven" work at university.

"Just think how many courses, how many PhDs and degrees are driven by data. Whether you're doing something scientific and doing lots of experimental measurements, you want to be able to explore and see the results very very clearly... So our view of students is that many many students have a need to find meaning in their data."

He added that in the field of journalism in particular, data "is a really hot topic and it's a massive area for development".

"There's all this data and they need ways to explore and see the information at the speed of the news cycle, because obviously if you can't get a visualisation or meaning out of any data that you've got within one or two days then the news story has passed on and you've missed the boat.

"Now the reason students are going to benefit from this if they're journalism students, is that they'll be able to have a tool that enables them to find data, analyse data and discover and publish stories very very quickly.

"I think that's a key challenge with journalists at the moment because there are massive beacons of data journalism like the New York Times, they have a massive well resourced data journalism team, integrated into the newsroom, but not every newsroom can employ 25 people just to work on interactive graphics.

"So what we're hoping to teach the journalism students of today is that there are tools available that enable you to explore data quickly and then create rich, engaging interactive graphics within just like one or two hours and get them on the news site when the story is still hot."

He added that for those just starting out in data journalism, "Tableau's extremely easy to learn".

"It's very quick to install and then it's very quick to connect to data, wherever that data is be it Excel, csv, Access database. And then once you get going it's just a drag-and-drop interface to draw interactive charts."

"You don't need to learn to become programmer in order to become a data journalist with Tableau," he added.

For Tableau, making this software free to students helps raise awareness of platform further, as well as fulfilling its global data "mission".

"We're ten years old now as a company and our mission has always been to help the world see and understand their data and that's why we created Tableau Public, that's an entirely free product.

"So we're very committed to helping everybody to cope with this data explosion. But obviously the more people we make aware of Tableau, and get them used to these conversations with data and being data-driven, then once they graduate and go into business then they'll have an expectation that the tools they're used to will be available."

To gain free access students can sign up online. Where universities are not listed students will need "to provide documentary evidence of their student credentials", Cotgreave added. The free access is available to all full-time students at accredited universities and secondary schools.

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