Gamification is often a great teacher. Classrooms are no stranger to competitive quizzes, role-playing, or the age-old trick of handing out sweets for correct answers.

As education shifts online, teaching methods must adapt as well. One analytics company has used gamification to teach data skills on its e-portal.

Data has become increasingly indispensable to our policies, businesses, and services. As the gap for data talent continues to grow, how can universities prepare their students for the data-driven world after graduation? Alteryx shares its strategies for helping to build the next generation of analytics experts.

Data skills for all

There is a big gap in more accessible technologies “that allow everyone in the university, not just a small pocket who have gone through Calculus 501, to get into data analytics”, Jordan Barker, Alteryx’s Director of Sales Engineering, Asia Pacific and Japan, points out.

Alteryx has launched a portal that aims to bring data analytics skills to everybody. The Alteryx Community provides training, forums, use cases and podcasts, amongst other resources. “It’s just a gold mine of information,” says Julian Quinn, Senior Vice President of Asia Pacific and Japan at Alteryx.

Users have six learning paths to choose from on the portal. They can start from the most basic courses or try out something more advanced like using machine learning to uncover deeper insights.

This resource could be valuable as more of education shifts online, Barker notes. The platform incorporates gamified elements, such as badges and points, so users can track their progress on their own as they go along.

Alteryx is also sharing its tech services with schools. The company’s Alteryx For Good initiative provides free licenses for its services to 2043 institutions worldwide, including Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. Teachers can work these into the curriculum to expose students to real world tools.

Alteryx’s services have been used across disciplines and departments. This ranges from mapping energy demand in environmental studies to data visualisation in computer science courses.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re studying journalism, current affairs, or mathematics, there’s an inextricable link between analytics and these different professions,” Quinn says. “Data analytics underpins all of that.”

How analytics is transforming education

Alteryx isn’t just equipping students with data skills. Its services also help universities run more efficiently so students can learn better.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, for instance, used Alteryx analytics to project student numbers. This is crucial for designing programmes, budgeting and space allocation.

The University has to consider multiple factors for this projection, such as demographic data and exam results. It previously used Excel, and staff had to trace any errors manually. Alteryx allowed them to detect anomalies easily.

Alteryx also helped one of the largest universities in the UK proactively reach out to struggling students. The university studied students’ academic performance and attendance to identify those who needed more support. The predictive analytics tool even suggested supplementary courses to boost their grades.

This has helped the university save costs as well. “It actually costs the university more if a student fails and has to leave university, than actually trying to keep them and make them successful,” Barker notes.

In another case study, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology used Alteryx’s services to drastically cut down the amount of time spent on financial reporting. Its original system was extremely complicated, with more than a million formulas spanning 20 to 30 Excel worksheets. These took an hour to run, and any calculation change took up to two days.

Turning to Alteryx allowed them to save 15 hours on these reports every month. The finance team, which were not tech trained, could manage their own calculations and didn’t have to rely on the IT department.

The university even took it a step further to forecast the following year’s budget with Alteryx. The finance team is experimenting with budgeting simulations to predict future expenses.

Analytics isn’t just helpful in the curriculum; it can transform the core processes of running a university. Alteryx seeks to nurture and grow the next generation’s data experts with its services.