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To promote data literacy skills among students in health sciences programs at the University of Houston, librarians and faculty in health education and nursing developed data dashboards. The data dashboards serve as experiential learning opportunities, which allow students to map out the future of health in their own communities. Students in these courses learn valuable data literacy skills that they can apply to their health professions as they enter the workforce.

Staff created learning objects, data dashboards, to give students a practical and realistic way to interact with a variety of complex datasets that could be used to target populations for specific health interventions. The librarians and faculty worked together to create course activities, which required students to identify, interpret, and communicate data as a means to provide health education to an at-risk population. The library was strategically positioned to support building data dashboards by employing a data librarian with a specialty in geographic information systems (GIS) and data visualizations.

To develop the interactive dashboards, we created a five-step plan: (1) create a data management plan, (2) collect data sources, (3) analyze data, (4) wrangle data, and (5) build visualizations. The data management plan was created for each course project, as we would be working with a variety of data sources. Depending on the needs of the course, we created dashboards containing several data points that would need to be seamlessly managed during the data dashboard creation. It was important to us to be able to track raw data sources and to preserve unique data dashboards as a means to be transparent, to be reused, and to replicate pieces of the dashboards to create other learning objects or to advance ongoing research initiatives in health sciences and community health.

Data collection included a variety of data sources, both publicly available and proprietary. Data sources depended heavily on the instructor's main focus, in other words, data related to lead exposure risk or set-up locations for clinics. Data points and variables were collected from the US Census, US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Texas Education Agency (TEA), the National Historical Geographic Information System, crime reports, Reference USA, Healthy People 2020, or in class-generated survey data.

Data analysis and normalization took place using QGIS and Trifacta Wrangler to identify patterns and stories in the data that would be highlighted in the interactive visualizations. Once the data were cleaned and normalized, we used Tableau Public to build interactive visualizations. We embedded some of these visualizations into course LibGuides, while others remained in the Tableau Public account dashboard and were shared using a persistent link.

In the LibGuide for the "Community Health Nursing" course, the students were able to conduct a suitability analysis for lead exposure by giving a weighted value to each variable, thereby creating a risk index and identifying vulnerable populations.

In another data dashboard project for the "Social Health & Wellness" course, the students viewed two health variables in Texas counties to determine what type of relationships existed between the health indicators. Students were then asked to find supporting literature that explained reasons for these possible relationships. In both cases, data dashboards gave the students the ability to select and weight variables, empowering them to make better informed, evidence-based decisions in their own communities, which typically does not happen in the course curriculum.

Interest in data dashboards continues to grow among faculty in other disciplines. Recently, the university embarked on five-year quality enhancement plan (QEP) to improve student learning through incorporating real-world and project-based experiences into the undergraduate curriculum. The library's success with developing and utilizing data dashboards uniquely positions it to play an important role in achieving the university's goal of providing experiential learning opportunities.



Porcia Vaughn, MSIS,, Biosciences Librarian, Life Science Library, University of Texas at Austin, 2400 Inner Campus Drive, S5439, Austin, Texas, 78712

Submitted by Porcia Vaughn, MSIS, Life Science Library, University of Texas at Austin; Michelle Catalano, MA, MD Anderson Library, University of Houston; Josh Been, MLS, Houston Independent School District
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Author:Vaughn, Porcia; Catalano, Michelle; Been, Josh
Publication:Journal of the Medical Library Association
Date:Oct 1, 2017

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