Monday, May 17, 2021

Calculated Fields: Figuring it out!

Calculated fields are a critical feature of Data Studio, and allow you to transform your data in a number of different ways. If you're at all familiar with functions and formulas in spreadsheets, you're more than halfway there to understanding calculated fields in Data Studio.

As of right now, Google Data Studio supports 82 different functions for calculated fields in seven different categories: 

  • Aggregation (such as AVG to calculate an average)
  • Arithmetic (such as ABS to return the absolute value of a number)
  • Conditional (such as IF to return values based on conditional statements)
  • Date (such as MONTH to return just the month of a date field)
  • Geo (such as TOCITY to return a city name)
  • Text (such as CONCAT to combine/concatenate text)
  • Miscellaneous (such as HYPERLINK to create a clickable hyperlink in a table)

Calculated fields can be created either at the data source or the chart level in a Data Studio report. Data source calculated fields can be used over and over throughout any report that uses that data source, whereas chart-level calculated fields are created for use in a single graph, table, filter control or other element. more info

To create a data source calculated field, go to Resource > Manage added data sources, choose Edit for the data source to which you want to add the field, and then click + Add a Field in the upper right corner of the page.

To create a chart-specific calculated field in say, a selected table, look in the Data pane of the table's properties panel on the right, and click +Add dimension or +Add metric (depending on the kind of field you want to create.)

In both cases, you'll then need to give the field a name and then write a formula. Here are examples of calculated fields using two of my favorite functions:

  • Combining: Suppose your data source has fields for firstname and lastname, but you want to have a field that just gives a student's full name. You could use the CONCAT function to create a new field called Full Name. (Note that the example includes a comma and space between the two names.)

  • Transforming: Suppose you have a boolean field called IEP that is a 1 if a student has an IEP, and a 0 if they don't have an IEP, but you want the information to display more descriptively than just 0 or 1. You could use a CASE statement to create a new field called IEP Status.
  • You could also use the IF function to do something similar.

For my spreadsheet friends: Please note that you don't need to type "=" before using any of these functions, like you do in Sheets or Excel (this took me some time to get used to!)

You might be asking, "If my data source is a Google Sheet, why wouldn't I just create these new fields as columns in my Sheet?" This is definitely another option, however, using calculated fields means you can do all the work on the Data Studio end without having to refresh the data source every time you add a new field, or "fill" Sheet formulas every time new rows are added to the spreadsheet.

Google has a simple tutorial to walk you through creating a few different types of calculated fields, if you want to try it out. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Google Forms + Data Studio = A Match Made In Heaven!

Since it's almost Valentine's Day, I thought I'd highlight one of my favorite couples - Google Forms and Google Data Studio! 

Google Form data (saved in a Google Sheet) is a GREAT starting point for educators looking to get started creating a Google Data Studio report. Why? One main reason is that the structure of the data works well as a Data Studio data source, since it has just a single header row, no merged cells, no blank rows, and consistency in field values.

Here are a few tips for developing Google Forms to use with Data Studio:

  • Use very short questions. Try using just 1-2 words in the Google Forms question field, then and putting the full details of the question in the description. These questions become your column headers in Sheets and thus your field names in Data Studio, and this makes them much more manageable.
  • Avoid "Check all that apply" type questions. Try using a multiple choice grid type question (with yes/no answers) instead. This makes the data more compatible with filtering in Data Studio.
  • Build a sort order into your responses. If the responses to a question have a particular order (like Daily, Weekly, Monthly), try including a sort order in the responses (1-Daily, 2-Weekly, 3-Monthly) so that when you sort in Data Studio they sort correctly. (Yes, you could do this with a calculated field in GDS too, but why make things harder if you don't have to?) Linear scale questions are a good option for this too, especially if you want to report on the average response number.
  • Build your report first based on sample data. I will often build my report BEFORE sending out the Form, using the Form Responses tab with some rows of sample data (I usually try to add enough sample data that all possible answers are in the data set for each question.). I then remove my sample data once real data starts coming in.
  • Take advantage of "live" updating. If you've built your Data Studio report, and the data continues to come in via the Form, the report will continue to update (automatically every 15 minutes). This is great for "leaderboard" type reports when you've built out the report ahead of time (see previous bullet)
  • Capture email addresses. If your data source contains email addresses, you can use the Filter by Email feature to create customized reports. Or, you can use the email addresses as a unique identifier to pull in additional information on top of what's collected in the Form.
Here are some of my favorite examples of Data Studio projects that use Google Form data:

Do you have any other great examples? Please feel free to submit them to the K-12 Data Studio Report Collection!

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day! ♥