A Roadmap for Using Tableau for Teaching

I have been teaching Data Visualization at the University of Cincinnati (U.C.) since 2012 and from the very beginning I have been using Tableau as part of the course. Over the years this has developed into more of the curriculum, as students have asked for more Tableau training as part of the class. Last year I developed a data visualization course template for Tableau and included Tableau training and tutorials are part of that course as well. Besides being a leader in the visualization space, Tableau offers a great program for teachers and students, the Tableau for Teaching program. In this blog post I will outline this program and how to set up Tableau (for free) in a classroom environment.

Tableau for Teaching

The Tableau for Teaching program offers free licenses. This is what I use for the data visualization class at U.C. Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep, now part of the Tableau Creator license, and Tableau Online, are all available for free to all students in the class. Simply go to the Tableau for Teaching webpage and select "Request Course Copy". Fill out the form for each course (including lab copies if needed) and Tableau will issue a license key that will be good for the entire duration of the course. Make sure to request the key for the entire dates of the course, including assignment due dates after the last class. This is important since the student's copy of Tableau will expire based on the dates entered for the class. You can submit a request for each class you teach and for all of the students in each class. Note - professors can request a separate license key (good for one year) or use the license key for the class (for the duration of the class).

Here are the license types for the Tableau for Teaching program:

Instructor license (individual): Instructors can request a one-year Tableau license for each year that they are teaching Tableau in a course. Request a license by completing the online form here.

Course License (bulk): This includes bulk students licenses, bulk lab licences and the Tableau Online Platform. Request a course license here.

Bulk lab licenses are for use in computer environments that only students and instructors have access to and are valid for one year. Instructors are issued one bulk lab license with enough activations for all of the computers in the lab environment.

Bulk student licenses (which is what I use for each class) are for use on students’ personal computers and are valid for the length of a specific course. Instructors are issued one bulk student license per course with enough activations for all of the students in the class. Licenses are sent to instructor who can pass it along to their students or post on Blackboard.

The Tableau Academic Team is very resposive. You will receive an email from Tableau approximately one week prior to the start of the course for course licenses or 5-7 days after requesting an instructor licence. The email will include the license key and download information. I suggest requesting the keys with plenty of notice, but the email response is always super quick. The email will provide a template that you can copy and paste into Blackboard or send in an announcement/email to the students. It will include the license key and download instructions. Students can then download the latest version of Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep, enter the license key to register and they will be off and running.

Full Time Students

Tableau offers a free license key that is good for one year to all full-time students. This can be renewed for as long as the student is enrolled full-time. This allows them to use it for any class, not just my class. Many of my students take advantage of this, and why not? It allows the students to continue to access Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep, long after my class is over, which can be very helpful for their other course work and pschool projects. I always include this information as part of my class. Simply point students to the Tableau for Students webpage to sign up.

Tableau Public

Everyone can (and should) download and install Tableau Public (no license key required). This can be installed alongside Tableau Desktop and it is nearly a full featured version of Tableau Desktop.

The biggest things to know about Tableau Public:

1. Tableau Public does not offer data connections to any server. Tableau Public will only import data from Excel, CSV, Google Sheets, and more recently they added spatial files.
2. Files can not be saved locally (as TWB or TWBX files). They have to be saved in the cloud. Once saved on Tableau Public they can be hidden, but the visualization and the data are saved to Tableau Public's server. This is very important. Make sure to tell you students not to load sensitive, confidential or proprietary data into Tableau Public. However, for most class projects, or anything with open data, it's a terrific solution.
3. There are no sample datasets to work with or train. This isn't a big issue, since you can load any Excel or CSV file into Tableau Public. It just requires a bit of planning to make sure that data sets are provided to the class for training, or they can find and import their own data, which is what they do for the projects in my class.
4. Tableau Public will not be a good solution for collaborating, because workbooks can't be saved locally and shared. So if planning group projects that require separate work and collaboration, for example group porjects, then obtaining Tableau Desktop keys for the course is the best route.
5. Tableau Public does not include Tableau Prep, which is a very handy tool that students will find helpful for preparing, wrangling and loading their data.

I've used Tableau Public several times, once for a group of homeschoolers that I taught data visualization and Tableau and most recently with a group of high school students at a summer program at the University of Cincinnati. In each case, students installed Tablau Public ahead of time and I set up a webpage for the students to access various data sets. When finished (or aong the way) students can save and publish their visualization on Tableau Public and share the link to the visualization. I also encourage students to build out a portfolio of visualization work on their Tableau Public Profile because this has become a major factor in hiring at many companies.

Tableau Training Videos

Tableau offers a terrific series of training videos. There is a link in the Tableau interface that students can click on (it shows up in the right-hand pane of Tableau when connected to the internet). The videos can be accessed directly and downloaded. I supplement my data visualization course with these video tutorials. They include Tableau files and datasets and a video with step-by-step instructions for each module. I would encourage anyone learning Tableau to work their way through these hours and hours of training videos.

Tableau's Data Visualization Course

Last year I developed a complete data visualization course for Tableau. If you are a professor teaching a related topic then you might find this useful. You can request access here and download from their website (for free). This course was designed based on my UC course. I use the Big Book of Dashboards as my textbook, my Halloween data set for the first assignments and I leverage the Tableau online training videos listed above. I also include a few of my own Tableau tutorials. The course includes a syllabus, all of the PowerPoint slides with my notes, an exam with answer key and various assignment. Some professors use the entire course as it is and others pull modules or content from it as they find useful.

Other Tableau Resources

I've curated a list of helpful blog posts at TableauReferenceGuide.com. This list is organized by category and indexed with a search function. It includes links to some of the best tutorials that I've found and is frequently updated. This reference guide was included in a blog post last year that you might also find helpful, Learning Tableau: Resources and tips to help you on your Tableau journey. This post included videos, books and various other links that students and professors may find useful.

I hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Jeff@DataPlusScience.com

Jeffrey A. Shaffer

Follow on Twitter @HighVizAbility