Last year, I recorded an example of using the Power BI in education, and specifically the Q&A service, to turn data into information on Australian universities (you can see it here on YouTube). Recently, I’ve been creating an example with school data, to show another way of using Power BI in education. This latest example is a walk-through of the Q&A side of Power BI, which provides the ability for users to ask questions about data using a simple search box. The data that is used in this example is from the Queensland government’s Open Data sites as well as the Australia Bureau of Statistics Census 2011 summaries, and they are linked together to allow you to ask questions in plain language. They were originally published in lots of different formats – spreadsheets, CSV files, zip files – so one of the jobs to do was to use the Power BI Desktop app to bring them together.
Watch the video for an introduction of what is possible
The reason for sharing this isn’t to look at the data specifically, but to share with you how Q&A works for a typical user, and the kind of ways that you can ask questions and gain insight into your information. This example uses a wide set of data published in Queensland, but hopefully you will get an idea of the way that it could work with your own internal data. The video is 15 minutes long, so you’ll only get a brief insight into the kind of questions that could be asked about this data!
Using Power BI in education – the three steps
The Power BI team talk about a three step process for using data:
The video only shows the second step – how you can use Q&A to craft a data story – but in total all three stages took about 12 hours to build:
- about 6 hours to identify the data sources, import it from 12 different sources, and structure it so that it could be connected;
- a further 6 hours to start asking questions and look for interesting relationships, as well as to change some of the field names from “labels that are crazy data centric ones” to “words that you’d actually type if you asked a question”. This stage is pretty important with Power BI, because the aim is to put the power of questions into the hands of every day users, not high powered analysts;
- the final stage was for me to create a dashboard, which was simply created by me pinning the key charts and reports to the front page – and took minutes, resulting in the dashboard below. This dashboard could be viewed on the web, or in the Power BI apps on a Windows tablet, iPad or Android tablet.
Get Power BI now
You can register for Power BI and download the apps, including the desktop app (to create data sets) and the Power BI app for Windows, iOS and Android – which allows your users to access your data when and where they want, on their own devices – directly from powerbi.microsoft.com.
For the majority of users, Power BI is a free service, and for power users who need Power BI Pro, there’s a 60-day trial available. My view is that a school might need one or two Pro users, and the majority of users will be able to use the free service. I used the free service to create the demo you’ve just seen! The Power BI pricing information here is full commercial pricing – you’ll need to talk to your usual Microsoft partner for education pricing.
My best recommendation for Power BI training is to use Jen Underwood’s site (http://www.jenunderwood.com/training/) which has tonnes of useful training in all aspects of Power BI.