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Tableau for Data Visualization

What is Tableau?

Tableau is a platform for data visualization. It consists of several local and cloud-based tools such as Tableau Online, Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep Builder, and Tableau Public, all of which are used at MCPHS. 

It is more than just a chart builder. Tableau allows people to quickly and easily create intuitive user interfaces for uncovering insights from data. These user interfaces are called dashboards and contain several related data visualizations (vizzes) in one view to aid strategic decision making. 

Those who view and interact with dashboards do not have to be trained data analysts. Typically, they are in leadership roles. Tableau developers – those who build dashboards – tend to be people in analyst roles.

Example Dashboard

Example tableau dashboard

Getting Started

If you would like to use Tableau for your studies or teaching at MCPHS, the following resources are available to you free of charge:

  • Tableau for Students – Tableau will provide a free one-year license to Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder. The application process from start to finish may take a few days. We suggest applying right away and using the two-week trial of Tableau which is available immediately after installation. You may reapply each year to keep your one-year license.
  • Tableau for Teaching – Instructors using Tableau in their course curricula can apply for a free one-year instructor license.
  • Tableau is available on library computers in the Digital Toolshed, and on some of the computers in IT labs.

If you are an employee and would like to use Tableau for your work at MCPHS, please fill out our Tableau Application Form.

If none of these categories applies to you, or you simply want to start exploring right away with completely free and accessible resources, we suggest trying out Tableau Public. It will facilitate learning how to use the software in an immersive way. Explore some public datasets with Tableau Public. These are typically clean datasets that are not restricted in access. 

There are also Tableau courses available on external sites, like this one on Udemy: Tableau 2020 A-Z: Hands-On Tableau Training for Data Science. Enrolling in this course gives you unlimited access to the course materials. If you are a faculty member, student, or an employee with a Creator license, you will be able to use the full version of Tableau Desktop with an external course like this one. Otherwise, you can use Tableau Public to follow along.

As a free option, these videos offered by Tableau will get you up to speed.   

License Types

Tableau Online uses a license-based structure. If you are an employee and were added to the Tableau Online site, you will have been assigned one of these licenses. There are three different types: Creator, Explorer, and Viewer. Each has different privileges and responsibilities, which are outlined below.


Creators are Tableau developers. They can build and publish worksheets and dashboards connected to any data source. Creators can also publish standalone data sources to Tableau Online for Explorers to use. A Creator license gets you full access to Tableau Online, Tableau Desktop, and Tableau Prep Builder. They are typically people in a data analytics role.


Explorers can connect to data sources published by Creators and have full viewing privileges on Tableau Online. Although they do not have access to Tableau Desktop, they can build their own vizzes using the web-based application within Tableau Online. It provides much of the same functionality as Tableau Desktop minus a lot of formatting options.


Viewers are read-only users. They can view and interact with published worksheets and dashboards on Tableau Online. They can also export a viz as a PDF, Excel crosstab, or flat image.

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