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Toolbox Tip: Free Data Visualization Tools

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Trainers are expected to convey content to learners clearly and quickly. One way to draw attention to key issues is by presenting information visually. Doing so may also help uncover surprising patterns and observations that are not apparent from looking at data alone.  As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

"By visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes—a sort of information map. And when you’re lost in information, an information map is kind of useful," said information designer David McCandless during a recent TEDTalk.

Thanks to Big Data, there are plenty of data points to use. And thanks to data visualization tools, trainers have a resource for synthesizing and presenting information in a way that focuses learners’ attention struggling with a mass of competing data streams.


Here are two free tools to help you get started.

  • iCharts (http://www.icharts.net) provides a hosted solution for creating and presenting compelling charts. Charts can have interactive elements, and can pull data from Google Docs, Excel spreadsheets, and other sources. The free account lets you create basic charts, while you can pay to upgrade for additional features and branding-free options.
  • Visualize Free (http://visualizefree.com/index.jsp) is a hosted tool that allows you to use publicly available datasets or upload your own data to build interactive visualizations that illustrate your data. The visualizations go well beyond basic charts.
    What other visualization tools are out there? What have you used?

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at rellis@td.org. 

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