Going to Data Visualization School

With the never-ending expansion of online possibilities for quality learning, I got to the can’t-see-the-woods-for-trees phase quite a while ago and tend to forget about some of the high quality stuff out there. Hence, I wanted to get some sort of overview of the possibilities I needed to look into. That used to be an Evernote note. By now I have attended a few of the courses, but there is still plenty out there I should be able to combine with a busy work schedule. Anyway, I have turned the note into this post, which is mainly for my own sanity’s sake, but might be of relevance for others.


I have only come across one aggregator of university level courses, and that is Class Central. It makes it very easy to find some truly inspiring courses from the big boys in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs):

Coursera have so many great courses that I can’t exactly say that I have checked them all. I did take part in the Computing for Data Analysis course last time around, and that definitely brushed up my R skills. I will hopefully find the time to also participate in Data Analysis.

Data Visualization

Alberto Cairo’s course “Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization” from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas is absolutely top class.

Katy Börner at Indiana University will run a Information Visualization MOOC very soon (starts 22 January). I’ve signed up in the hope that I will find the time necessary. It seems extremely interesting.

Andy Kirk also travels the world with his one-day introductory training courses, so although it’s not an online course, it is quite global anyway. I attended his course in New York back in May, and it’s definitely worth the buck.

Visualization by Code

c<>de school is a new player on the market, and they already have a course where you can Try R. Which is free. And quite amazing for the effort. It’ll only take a couple of hours of your time. They have a range of other courses, some of which would be relevant to people doing information graphics and data visualizations.

Codecademy is not so much targeted at data analysis or visualization, but they do have introductory courses in JavaScript and Python, which is relevant for just about every person that would like to one day be able to make her own interactive visualizations.

For D3.js I believe Scott Murray’s D3.js tutorials and the tutorial he, Jeff Heer and Jérôme Cukier made for VisWeek 2012 are good places to start. I haven’t yet given this tutorial from Stanford much of a look, but as the only required reading is a paper by Stanford’s own Michael BostockVadim OgievetskyJeffrey Heer who are also the authors of D3, I think it should be a requirement for anyone digging into D3. The most comprehensive collection of tutorials seems (unsurprisingly) to be the D3 wiki page, but Dashing D3.js also seems like a great source. Still looking very much forward to find the time to go through all these D3 materials.

I have not yet looked into Processing/Processing.js at all, but they have a learning pages on the websites, so that would probably be the best place to start.

Visualization Without Code

Tableau have their own great training section. I don’t think you need to go anywhere else. I haven’t looked much into it yet, though. I will as soon as the Tableau Mac version is out.

There must be a few Google Fusion Tables tutorials out there by now. Not sure if there is any centralized or at least structured learning anywhere, though. The best place could easily be Google Fusion Tables help section.

And well, there is of course Excel, which is pretty great for more visualization purposes than than it usually gets props for. If you tweak every single graph a bit. For non-intuitive Excel graphs, I find The Excelchart’s tutorials pretty great.

Illustrator is probably the go-to tool for graphics, and all I’ve tried so far is the tutorials Alberto Cairo made for his course mentioned above, although I’m sure there are a lot of great tutorials relevant at Lynda.

Big Data

I only know Big Data University, and I have not yet followed any of the courses there, but as you would expect, you will be introduced to Hadoop.

I probably missed something necessary. If so, let me know.

featured image by Maxbo10

14 thoughts on “Going to Data Visualization School”

  1. Hi. I am not a programmer, I learned pascal and a bit o C long, long time ago. But I do find data visualization and analysis very exiting these days. Should I start with a course in general programming? I see there is one in Coursera. Thanks!

  2. Hi Ed. I’m a pretty lousy coder myself, but that didn’t deter me starting with the Computing for Data Analysis Coursera course. That would be a great start, but personally I believe you’d be better off with one of the general data/information visualization courses.

    Alberto Cairo’s second round of the course starts today, and it might be too late to register for that. But if you could do that, I believe that would be the best option anywhere to get started. It is for people with all skill sets. Katy Börner’s course starts in 10 days and is probably also very good. But I do think that her course will be more science/academia minded and therefore maybe a bit heavier than Alberto Cairo’s which is geared more towards journalism.

    You don’t need to code to make great data visualizations. I personally like the added possibilities it gives, but understanding what a great data visualization is before digging into code is the best way forward, I’d say.

  3. I took several courses from Katy Borner at Indiana University. If you can get in, I highly recommend her.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys. Patrick, I will definitely take a look at Dex, and Matt, thanks for the endorsement of Katy Börner. Great to hear from someone who has actually taken courses by her!

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