MSMIS students create public health dashboards.

When Monica Chiarini Tremblay gave an assignment this spring to her health informatics class in the College of Business Administration at Florida International University (FIU), her instructions were vague—on purpose.

The students, all working on a Master of Science in Management Information Systems (MSMIS), were given current nationwide health rankings and told to develop a dashboard (at-a-glance communication tool). The dashboard’s purpose is to help people in a decision-making situation factor community health information into their process.

“It’s a great exercise in what business people often encounter,” Tremblay said. “You have to decide what to extract and present from an abundance of information. I purposely did not precisely define the project for them.”

Students in t-shirts sent to them by Tableau Software with course instructor Monica Chiarini Tremblay, front row, kneeling, in solid red shirt.

Crystal McAdams (BA ’08) admits that, at first, she and her fellow students, working as teams, thought “Can we create a professional finished product in eight weeks? But soon we learned how to focus on a goal, use the data, tweak and transform it, and present it as useful information.”

McAdams’ team developed dashboards on “Teen Pregnancy: Prevention through Intervention,” presenting relevant information on how factors such as education affect the numbers. Other teams created dashboards to help with university selection, understand cancer’s impact, identify the best location to build an urgent care center, select a healthy neighborhood and understand causes of death in Florida.

“The students learned how to cut the scope of the data and extract and present information,” Tremblay said.

She adds that the project is an ideal way to reinforce lessons learned in her business intelligence class as well as database and project management courses.

“She is no cookie cutter instructor,” McAdams said. “She forces us to think big but know the real world limitations and to turn data into a workable and sustainable product.”

Students receive accolades from business analytics company, data group.

Tremblay was so impressed with what the students achieved that she sent their work to Tableau Software and to Health2.0, the data source organization.

“Both groups liked seeing the projects and want to include the work on their websites,” she said.

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