Note: Thanks to a ever so little nudge from Kalyan Verma for this post.
Where did it come from?
This semester I had limited data that I could play with when it came to my courses so when I thought about an entry for the contest I wanted it to be practical (for daily use) and effective, after all I didn’t want to have 62 tabs on my dashboard :).
An inspiration occurred to me when thinking about students and our daily lives and how this semester I had not kept up with really important data (i.e. my grades). When I did my undergraduate degree in psychology, I focused on my grades a lot by maintaining an excel spreadsheet that would provide me with a glimpse of the performance in my courses. It was just easier to get feedback on a daily basis and after every exam because you always saw where you were in each of your classes. The habit of opening it up was key to better grades.
That lead to the dashboard below 🙂
(for those who can’t see it, see http://bit.ly/citNhq)
The dashboard picture above shows the current day in the context of a month to work as a visual reminder.
The three gauges on the right show the current performance in each of the three courses I am taking this semester.
On the lower half of the dashboard one can use the tabs to see further detail in each of the courses by seeing how many points opportunities have passed, how many are left based on the pie chart. The use of the pie chart was partly inspired by Stephen Few’s article on pie charts (www.perceptualedge.com/articles/08-21-07.pdf). The article mentions that pie charts are best to show the sum of two values. I felt that using a grey contrast for past opportunities and individual colors for each course in each tab in the pie chart showed a user how much of the pie is eaten so far and how much opportunity for change in grades was available.
On the right one sees the grades/assignment that have finished and the performance for each assignment so a user may see which assignments in the past have been hard and what their performance has been at a glance over time.
Note on Perspective
I have made this from a perspective that if this were integrated into the learning management systems such as Blackboard/Web CT (which are learning/content managementsystems for universities) then a student could just log in to the system and their grades would be pulled from the excel sheets or databases that are administered by the professors and students would be see their at a glance performance in a visually pleasing manner and this would also provide students with the opportunity to see their performance over time. So far we have individualized spreadsheets for each course with no visualization.
Technical issues faced
My dashboard is pulling form an excel sheet that was using a named range (i.e. a number of cells grouped together for summing their values were named a range such as “Sum_total_grades” and as a result the dashboard was showing a certain grade value for all three gauges as well as a certain value across all the three pie charts)
After emailing Kalyan, I received a prompt response saying that try using a formula instead of a named range and voila, everything clicked. Thank you so much Mr.Kalyan!
Note on the experience
During this experience, I have had an opportunity to hear from some very helpful folks during the dashboard pilot program for Crystal Dashboard and Design (formerly Xcelsius) and would like to thank (in order of first exposure) Kirby Leong, Mico Yuk, Tammy Powlas, Kumar Subramanian and finally my mentor Kalyan Verma who assisted me in troubleshooting the above query. These names are entirely from memory, hence if I have missed anyone, please accept my apologies and please feel free to point them out. I am looking forward to a design session with Ingo Hilgefort in the Spring.