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Essentials of Data Visualization Course Spotlight

Essentials of Data Visualization Course Spotlight

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Last Updated September 19, 2023

Villanova University’s Essentials of Data Visualization is an eight-week online course that teaches students the skills they need to tell the story of data through visual presentation. The course focuses on both the theory of data visualization and its practical application in making complex information easier to understand.

The course prepares students to use data visualization in tracking progress toward organizational goals at the strategic, tactical and operational levels.

Students will learn how to apply data visualization principles and theories to real-world situations. They will also learn best practices for telling stories using data and learn how to use data visualization tools to build at-a-glance dashboards. Students will also create their own data visualizations in class, allowing them to build a data visualization portfolio that can be used outside of the classroom.

The Essentials of Data Visualization course is ideal for professionals from a variety of backgrounds, including business, the liberal arts or the sciences. People from all career fields can use strong skills in data storytelling to bolster their career possibilities.

A Course for Those with a Curious Mindset

Javier Leon, MBA, PMP, the Villanova faculty member who developed and teaches the course, said data visualization can help anyone with an interest in using data to tell their story. 

“I would say that the mindset behind a person that might be interested in data visualization is that of curiosity,” Leon said. “If you are a curious person and want to learn more about any topic in particular and find ways to connect to honest and transparent data sources, you can do research on your own and put things to the test.”

He added that students in the course receive hands-on experience with two of the best-known software in the industry – Qlik and Tableau. Students who complete the course will have a better understanding of data visualization’s power. 

“When you have your information, your data, in front of you, you can very easily turn it into useful information – and actionable information. And information that would also move you to action when you are looking at it,” Leon said. “I really like that about data visualization.”

What Students Will Learn in Data Visualization

Working with Qlik and Tableau, students will create graphs, charts and dashboards. They will learn to segregate and create data reports for all stakeholders, with as much granularity as they need. Students also will learn how to measure success by setting strategic key performance indicators.

Learning modules in the Essentials in Data Visualization course include:

  • Introduction to Performance Dashboards and Scorecards
  • Business and IT Alignment/Types of Performance Dashboards
  • Understanding Strategic, Tactic and Operational Dashboards
  • Creating Dashboards and Data Visualizations with Qlik
  • Best Practices for Creating Performance Metrics and Performance Dashboards
  • Creating Dashboards and Data Visualizations with Tableau
  • Opportunities for Data Visualization Reporting in the Industry
  • Other Software Packages and Future Trends

Benefits of Learning About Data Visualization

Those who work in technology, finance, healthcare and government can all benefit from developing expertise in data visualization. 

Leon said that those who work in STEM-related fields, statistics, technology, engineering, math and project management all need to understand how to use data visualization. But he added that those who do not come from engineering or STEM backgrounds can also benefit, such as psychologists or those who work in the media.

“What I love about data visualization is the fact that it teaches you things you didn’t know you didn’t know. You can be a genius in Excel, and you wouldn’t be able to do the things we can do with data visualization,” said Leon.

Further, Leon said the class will help people discern “whether or not what you are receiving in the news, for example, told by other people, etc., is correct.”

Faculty Expertise

Leon holds an MBA, a Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics, a Master of Science in Food Marketing and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP)®. A firm believer in continuous education, Leon has worked with data and analytics from his first job at a brewery in his native Venezuela to his current position as a project manager with Amazon Produce Network.

Leon said students can benefit from his experience. In the course, he offers examples of how he used data visualization to benefit companies where he has worked. “It allows students to see a real-life problem and a real-life solution and a person that they know who has been hired to solve that problem,” Leon said.

He also connects abstract numbers to real-world situations. He said that most people don’t realize that something as commonplace as a mango has a wealth of statistics, numbers and formulas behind it.

“Formulas were created to assess the value of the mango and statistics are used to understand how to tell whether or not the rain is going to affect the aesthetics of the mangos,” Leon said. “I believe that when I show them and expose them to this information, they realize the value of what they are learning.”

PMP is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.