When I first considered teaching students data analysis in the classroom, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. The pandemic, as it did for many, made things more difficult. I had to completely revamp my syllabus, adapt to teaching remotely, and in general change the way I do a lot of my work. It was a difficult transition for all of us, and I wanted the fall semester to go smoothly, remote learning or not. For that, I needed a program that would work well in either a school or home environment, and one that was flexible and clear but still up to professional standards.
Alteryx was able to provide all of those in one with the SparkED education program. Since my students are typically not yet familiar with Alteryx Designer software, I am able to start with a clean slate; everyone is on the same knowledge level, and no one is bored by having to sit through a lesson on something they already know how to do. The weekly challenges provide a good basis for my lessons, allowing students to see practical uses for the skills they are developing.
Storytelling for Real World Impact
One of the things I love about Alteryx Designer and other software is how it helps the user really visualize what the data is telling them. It’s easy to look at a large dump of information and be intimidated, but that’s what data analysis is for; paring down that incomprehensible beast into something tangible, something you can explain. That ‘storytelling’ component is one of the key points of my teaching, because it’s just so vital in the workplace. I want to make sure my students not only understand the tools I’m giving them, but can utilize them effectively. It’s not enough to just parse through the data; you need to be able to explain what the data means.
My students are given a large amount of data to synthesize, either individually or in groups. They are then expected to explain what they find in the datasets to the rest of the class. They have to find something interesting in the dataset and tell a story with it. It is an excellent, and rather popular, practical exercise that really helps drive home the versatility of data analysis and its uses in the workplace.
Certification is Required for My Students
One of my more personal goals for this course is to give my students something beyond classroom learning, something more tangible. I want them to walk away with another tool under their belt: industry-recognized certification. This is another reason that Alteryx and SparkED were the right choice; students have the opportunity to become professionally certified to use Alteryx in the workplace. This is exactly the kind of professional leg up I want to give my students, something that will stand out on a resume and on the job. It also provides me with a convenient benchmark (the certification exam) to gauge the success of this somewhat experimental course.
I’ve taken the exam myself, of course, and it’s not easy. It takes learning, and quite a bit of practice. You need to be willing to put the effort in. But it’s not unfair either. And it can be taken weekly, which really makes it an ideal tool for teaching and learning. We had a few technical difficulties with the free online exam at first, but the wonderful people at Alteryx are always available and happy to help me solve any problem that crops up the moment I call or email.
This course is something of an experiment on my part, to be certain. But out of my first class of 28 students, 21 passed the exam and became Alteryx certified. It feels so good to be able to give my students an advantage like this. I know of at least two students who have leveraged this so far: one who secured a job that required familiarity with Alteryx Designer, and one who had already accepted a job that required Alteryx certification. All in all, I’d consider my partnership with Alteryx and SparkED to be a total success, and I look forward to working with them more in the future.
My advice to students thinking of taking a look at data analytics: consider a course using Alteryx. Designer software is an intuitive, no-code, code-friendly platform, and it is quite fun to work with.
My advice to instructors thinking of offering data analytics to their students: it’s a good choice in today’s world where every future knowledge worker, subject matter expert, or leader will need to question, understand, and solve with data.
Get more info on the SparkED program here.