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For the final stages of this course, we were tasked with what was initially described as a ‘data visualization’ assignment. This ultimately transformed into a four-part website, with one page dedicated to the work of our group, but more on that later.

Inspired by the Equality of Opportunity Project (EOOP), this assignment aimed to dive just a bit deeper into mobility rate as it related to US colleges. The New York Times published a report similar to the sort of work we were aiming to produce, but with a topic focused the income level of students at various colleges. We wanted to take the data provided by the EOOP and find a way to offer some new analysis on some other topics.

If that sounds vague, then I did a decent job of describing our goal. After breaking into small groups, we began to formulate ideas for our analysis that we could then coordinate into a single website. This was our first challenge — we did not know exactly how to format the website, nor did we ever have much of an opportunity to assign particular roles for designing the site. On the whole, the end product is pretty simple, as you may notice if you spend much time exploring the final result.

The second challenge, and what we spent most of our group time on, was the formation of the individual pages we would create for our chosen topics. The fact that it would be in the form of separate web pages was hardly discussed, but we ultimately fell on that solution due to a lack of any other brilliant ideas.

Our page, Top 20 Colleges, stemmed from an interest in the schools that excelled in terms of mobility rate. Particularly, what was it about these schools (the top 20 schools in mobility rate) that enabled them to take students from the bottom 20 percent income bracket and move them into the top 20 percent? The college characteristics data set offered a number of different qualities for us to observe, so we worked from that data to try and find any particular characteristics that set the top 20 schools apart from the rest of the pack.

Our group began by compiling an excel sheet with the different characteristics we thought may play a factor. We then analyzed the sheet for any patterns or insights within the characteristics, and we ultimately settled on four factors: scorecard net price, state, race, and major.

My biggest takeaway came next, when I began to play around with the data in tableau, a data visualization tool we were recently introduced to. Mostly through trial and error (our in-class practice session helped as well) I was able to build four visualization tables (plus a couple for comparison charts in the state and scorecard net price sections) to help offer a picture of the data. Learning tableau was definitely the most rewarding outcome of this assignment, and is a tool that I look forward to using in the future (as long as I am able to continue using it at no cost, which is likely to end soon).

Our group then tackled each factor individually, forming a written analysis of the data and any other thoughts. My section was scorecard net price, which looked into how the top 20 ranked in terms of the net price to students in the bottom 20 percent (spoiler alert: they performed quite well in this category).

Using a plugin called Snowball, our group compiled these four sections into a long form article (ish) styled web page. After each member had completed their section, I worked in Snowball to organize the sections and add in a table of contents, pictures, and an introduction. It was this activity that helped me achieve one of my greatest ‘a-ha!’ moments of the course, when I succeeded in embedding my interactive tableau creations into the article (hint: create a login on tableau public). For another ‘a-ha!’ moment, visit the podcast page and turn on sound. Maybe not as impressive, but I was pretty pleased with this achievement.

All things considered, I ended up quite satisfied with the work my group was able to produce. This project got off to a bit of a slow start, but we did a good job at the end to take what we had and offer a decent product at the finish. This assignment gave me an opportunity to work with a different tool (tableau) and a different plugin (Snowball), each of which offered rewarding results, at least for me, as I learned how to navigate them. Check out the website and our page to see for yourself.