IPEDS data in Access

I just learned that IPEDS data is now available in an Access file format. I plan on looking at this data more over the next few weeks since it appears that it contains all data rather than needing to locate and download various subsets to get what you need. It appears there is a single file for separate years (2011-), but I’m thinking I have a way of combining the files that shouldn’t be too difficult. I’ll know more once I have a chance to examine things in more detail. Here’s a link to where the data is available:


Linking to a Filtered Tableau Dashboard

During a presentation I recently gave to department chairs, a question was asked about the ability to link to a dashboard with filters already “set”. More specifically, the chair wanted to be able to link to a viz with our Enrollment data already filtered to show only his department. In my mind, I was thinking this should be possible but I wasn’t sure how to do it. But, know I do and soon you will too.

The trick to doing this is to know the URL of the viz that you are wanting to link to. For my example, I will use our enrollment explorer which is located on Tableau Public at:


If you didn’t already know, the last part of that URL (SelectStudents) actually references the tab which should be displayed. This gives you the ability to link to different tabs within the same workbook. For example, this link takes you directly to the “Who are they?” tab:


So, what about the filtering? Well, if you add a query string to the end of the URL, Tableau will parse it when loading the viz. The general structure of this query string should be:

Filter=Value   or    Filter=Value1,Value2,Value3

So, to link directly to the Who are They? tab and have it filtered to where Department is Psychology, the URL would be:


Once I looked into it, this was actually easier than I thought it would be. You can also do this with the URL action for dashboards and pass user selected values of a filter in which case the query string would look something like:


This KB article from Tableau is worth checking out since it goes more in depth than I have here.


Hierarchies and Dynamic Views with Parameters

Recently a co-worker was asking me about dates and how to handle semesters. What he wanted was the ability to expand a year to show semesters in the same way that years can be expanded into quarters. Basically this was a question of creating a custom hierarchy, and I thought it’d make a good how-to that post for here as well.

For this example, I’m using the “Hierarchies and Parameters” workbook I have posted on Tableau Public at:


Our first goal is to identify which dimensions we want to use to create the hierarchy. In many cases these dimensions might already exist in your data, but for purposes of this example I actually created two calculated fields based on existing dimensions.

The first is Fiscal Year which is just the year prefixed with FY so it’s more apparent we are looking as fiscal rather than calendar years.

Fiscal Year:

“FY”+str([TxSt FYear])

The second calculated field combines the semesters of Summer I and Summer II into Summer for consistency with how we are now reporting the data. (In the past we reported summer terms separately.)

Fiscal Semester:

if left([TxSt Semester],4)=”Summ” then “Summer”
else [TxSt Semester]

Luckily alphabetical order works for sorting the semester, but if not we could change its default sort order to get things appear correctly.

The final step (and really all that is required to create a hierarchy) is to drag [Fiscal Semester] onto [Fiscal Year]. I then did the same thing with [Course College] and [Department].

Now for the catch…

One thing to remember is that option to expand/drill down in the hierarchies will not always be obvious to the end user. So, it might work well at design time but we might want another option to get this functionality to end users. So, here’s a way to do something similar using parameters…

The Parameters worksheet shows examples of that “dynamic” functionality if we aren’t able to use the drill down of hierarchies in the final version but want something similar to it. To do this, I created a parameter (Show Departments?) and a calculated field (Department). The [Show Departments?] parameter is a simple Boolean set to Yes or No. The formula for the “Department” measure is:

if [Show Departments?]=TRUE then [Course Dept]
else “(All Depts)”

Basically if we’re showing departments then it’s the name of the department otherwise it shows as “(All Depts)”. The same process can then be used for semesters, which I’ve done in the example.

Of course, this approach isn’t perfect either because it “expands” the height (or width) of the table based on which elements are shown. This makes visual layout difficult on a dashboard, and even the “fit to” options might not work depending on how big the table ends up being once everything is expanded.

So, although the approach isn’t perfect, hopefully it gives you some ideas.



Tableau Licensing and Installation on Multiple Machines

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read the EULA for Tableau (you did read it, right?), but to help some people out I thought I would point to this helpful FAQ on their website about licensing and the number of installations:


Basically, for each desktop license purchased, an authorized user can install Tableau on 2 machines, a primary and secondary computer. It is assumed that the primary machine is a desktop at work. The secondary machine is either a laptop or home computer.

NOTE: This information is accurate as of the date I’m posting this, but their EULA could change. Be sure to check the current version to find out where things stand. Information on licensing and installation is in section 2.2 as of this post.