If you’re interested in learning about a new data analytics tool that can help your business (or you, on a personal level!) work more efficiently with data, you should consider taking the online Using Power BI with Excel course on LinkedIn Learning.
Led by a talented instructor, John David Ariansen, and offered and created by Madecraft, the course will show you how you can combine the power of Excel, a tool with which you are likely familiar, with the new potential of Power BI. Power BI is an extremely important data analytics tool that is streamlining the ways that businesses work with data.
At the end of this short course, you will have several new skills that you can use to help advance your ability to analyze data – and to improve your business.
Not sure whether the course is right for you? Find out more by reading my detailed Using Power BI with Excel course review.
What is Power Bi With Excel?
This course deals with two main technologies and how they can work effectively and harmoniously with each other.
The first is one with which you are likely familiar – Excel. Offered by Microsoft, Excel is a spreadsheet program that is used to create grids of texts, formulas, and numbers specifying calculations. It is extremely helpful for businesses who use it to record income and expenditures, plan their budget, keep track of data, and present final results.
Power BI, on the other hand, is a collection of apps, software services, and connectors that work in conjunction to convert unrelated sources of data into coherent, interactive, and visually immersive displays. With Power BI, you can incorporate data that’s in an Excel spreadsheet or in an assortment of cloud-based and on-site hybrid data warehouses.
With Power BI, you can easily connect to your sources of data and figure out which pieces are the most important. The program consists of a Windows desktop application and an online Saas (Software as a Service) program called the Power BI service. There are also mobile apps for Windows, Android, and iOS.
All three of these are designed to help you develop, share, and analyze business information in a way that makes the most sense for you and your business.
What Kinds of Content Does the Course Cover?
The first section of this course consists of a very brief introduction from the course instructor, John David Ariansen. The co-founder of Silvertone Analytics, Ariansen speaks clearly and crisply as he delivers this intro.
He goes over what you will learn in the course and what kind of person the class is right for. I loved that the intro was included – some online courses skip them and jump right into the core “meat” of the course, which can be confusing – and I liked that this was kept brief, as it’s also easy for instructors to get way too in-depth with their introductions.
Excel vs. Power BI
In this next main section of the course, Ariansen gives a very brief (less than six minutes) overview of Power BI versus Excel and the main differences and similarities between the two.
For example, although both programs are Microsoft products, they serve different functions. Excel is a spreadsheet tool while Power BI is a business intelligence tool. They can both generate visualizations, but that’s not the main goal of Excel (whereas with Power BI, it is – and it takes visualization to a whole new level).
Power BI is also better at automation, making it easier for you to discover and visualize data.
You will also learn about how you can use Power BI to analyze data for your projects. Although this can of course be done with Excel, Excel is more of a novice’s tool while Power BI is best for people who want to take data analysis to a whole new level. Knowing how the two differ and are related to each other can help you understand how they can be used in tandem.
In this section, you get a bit of “bonus” information, too, in that you’ll learn about Excel business intelligence add-ons you can use. For me, this section of the course was unexpected but appreciated.
These tools include Power Query, which helps you discover, combine, and refine data, and Power Pivot, which helps you create your own data models. Ariansen doesn’t give a ton of information about how to use these tools, but since that’s not the main objective of this course, I was satisfied with just the brief overview.
Business Intelligence with Excel
The next section of the course was quite a bit longer, dealing with the benefits of using Excel for business intelligence as well as how to clean data, combine data, create calculated, and visualize trends – all in Excel.
Some of this information was repeated from other sections – for example, many of the benefits of Excel that were discussed (easy to use, easy to learn, can be easily customized to a variety of users) were already mentioned earlier.
However, what I found to be really useful in this section were the brief instructions on how to clean and combine data. When you move through these “mini-modules,” you will be shown how to do everything via the screencast in the course. You can see Ariansen as he completes the work on his own screen, making it easy for you to see the ways in which this might be done.
The same goes for creating calculations. This was something that I already knew how to do, so I didn’t spend much time on this course segment. However, he also spends some time talking about the various calculation issues related to creating calculations in Excel, which was something I hadn’t considered before.
Power BI Overview
The module titled “Power BI Overview” was also one of the longer sections of the class. In this section, you will learn about the three main functions of Power BI and how they correspond to your potential uses. Again, as with other sections of the course, you’ll be able to watch Ariansen as he shows you examples of Power BI in action on his own screen. He explains everything clearly as he works so it’s clear what is what.
You will then learn how Power BI can connect to multiple data sources. He underscores the importance of using Power BI in the ability to eliminate data silos (which are data sources that are not being connected to other data sources). If you work for a large, data-driven organization, you’ll get a lot out of this section in particular.
He then progresses to discussing how data modeling can be used to get your data sources to relate to each other and how Power BI can help you build those relationships. He gives a brief introduction to DAX, too.
What is DAX? I won’t go into a ton of detail – you should take the course to find out! – but essentially, it’s a formal expression language that will enable you to create expressions and formulas in Power BI. This language, short for Data Analysis Expressions, is a library of functions and operators that are used in two key ways – a calculated column and handling measures.
Finally, in this module, you will learn more about data visualization. Data visualization is one of the most crucial features of Power BI. If you don’t already know this, I’ll Tell you that it’s not enough to have data – you also have to know what to do with it. Power BI makes it possible for you to own, analyze, and understand all of your data, while also being able to interpret it in ways that make sense (and benefit!) your organization or business.
Business Intelligence with Power BI
By far, this final main segment of the course was one of the “meatiest” and one of the most helpful. For me, this segment made taking the rest of the class entirely worth it. The instructor goes over several key concepts and business intelligence actions you can take with Power BI, including:
- How to create calculated column Power BI
- How to analyze implicit vs. explicit measures
- How to build a data model
- The difference between data tables vs. lookup tables
- How to build line graphs and bar charts
- How to build geomaps
- How to create a slicer
- How to create a dashboard
Of course, none of these concepts are discussed very in-depth (he only devotes a minute or two to each topic) but he provides a clear and helpful overview of each one. You can always get more information later on, if you decide to use Power BI for your organization, but this overview will help you gain awareness of the different functions and determine whether it’s right for you.
I always take the time to watch the conclusion in an online course, and as always, I didn’t regret it with Using Power BI with Excel.
The conclusion is very brief – less than a minute long – but gives students a bit more information on where to find more information and what your next steps should be. Ariansen offers some additional resources via his YouTube channel along with on Reddit, where there is a large community of Power BI users. He encourages all students to get in touch with him and connect on LinkedIn, too, which I thought was a nice gesture.
The LinkedIn Course Platform
To date, I have taken several courses on LinkedIn Learning, and this course was one of my favorites. I enjoy the Linked In Learning platform and everything it has to offer, particularly when compared to other platforms, like Udemy.
Although you do have to pay in order to receive access to all of its benefits, I think the fees are well worth it. The course quality seems to be higher and more consistent, making it easier for you to know what to expect. You can learn at your own pace and your course history will always be on hand so you can reference materials whenever you need them.
Another feature of LinkedIn Learning, which merged with Lynda in 2015, is that you can interact more readily with your instructors. Not only can all videos be watched with text overlay, but you can engage and interact with course authors via the Q&A feature. That’s not something you get with all other online course platforms, even those that are paid.
The Course & The Instructor
Using Power BI with Excel is one of many you will find related to data analysis on LinkedIn Learning. It has been completed by more than 28,000 students and liked by nearly 2,000, most of whom work in auditing, business analysis, corporate finance, and information technology.
The class is taught by John David Ariansen, an established analytics expert and published author. He is also an entrepreneur and analytics podcast co-host (the podcast is titled How To Get an Analytics Job and premieres new episodes every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday).
Ariansen is currently the Director of Analytics and co-founder of a company named Silvertone Analytics, which focuses on manufacturing, marketing, and nonprofit impact analysis. He posts weekly once intended to help other students in analytics on his YouTube channel and teaches courses on LinkedIn Learning as well as on Udemy, another online course platform.
Not only that, but Ariansen is an adjunct faculty member at both High Point University and Greensboro College. He teaches classes related to Excel and to analytics at both schools. It’s refreshing to see that he is an instructor who has experience teaching students both online and in-person. Once you take this course and are able to view his teaching style firsthand, you’ll understand his breadth of experience – and appreciate it, too!
Ariansen has numerous licenses and ciliates, including those as a Tableau Desktop Specialist. He has rave reviews from his recommenders, too, with recommendations saying things like, “ John David is a pleasure to work with and exhibits an excellent knack for analytics. He has a good instinct for finding efficiencies and offering new solutions.”
Major Benefits of Taking This Course
Clear Learning Objectives
My favorite part of this course was that it comes with very clear, concise learning objectives. When I complete online courses, I like being able to match up the skills and knowledge I am leaving the course with those cited objectives. It’s my way of “checking myself” to make sure I understood everything I was supposed to from the class.
This class has the following learning objectives, which I feel were met and delivered quite nicely:
- Comparing Excel and Power BI
- Cleaning and combining data in Excel
- Visualizing trends in Excel
- Modeling data in Power BI
- Visualizing data in Power BI
- Building line graphs, bar charts, and dashboards
Not only that, but Ariansen lists the core skills you’ll gain from the course, too, including those in Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft Excel, and Business Intelligence (BI).
Short & Sweet Course Delivery
At just 48 minutes long, this course was the perfect length for someone seeking a brief overview to Power BI and Excel. Although there were some sections that I felt the instructor could have dealt with in more detail, there wasn’t anything that was too wordy or drawn-out.
When you’re first getting acquainted with a topic, I think it is the most helpful for it to be as brief as possible. This can prevent overwhelm and burn-out right from the very beginning.
Certification Available at End of Course
Although I’m not a huge fan of the fact that you have to pay in order to use LinkedIn Learning and to access its many courses, I do appreciate that each class comes with a certificate of completion at the end. Because of this, you have something to “hang your hat on,” so to speak, and to show that you have demonstrated and learned what you are supposed to.
Granted, Power BI isn’t necessarily something you would need to have a certification in for you to work as a professional in this field. It’s only a skill that could prove to be useful when you get out into the business world – not a credential that’s absolutely necessary when it comes to landing you a job. That said, the certificate of completion is a cool tool that I would love to have in my portfolio and list as having completed on my LinkedIn profile and resume.
Comes with Bonus Learning Groups and Exercise Files
When you choose to participate in this course, you will also be able to join bonus learning groups. These learning groups are offered via LinkedIn and provide learners with another way to join communities of professionals there.
The first group you can join is the Excel Learning Group. This group has an impressive 22,492 members at the time of writing this article and is a wonderful resource for students who are interested in Excel and want to learn more, connect with other learners, and share resources.
The second learning group is the Data Analytics Study group. Perfect for students of all levels, this group is for students who are interested in learning more about data analytics and want to be able to collaborate, share, learn, and teach in a safe environment.
The final group is the Power BI Learning Group. The smallest group of the three, it is also the most unique. You can learn job interview tips and collaborate, share, learn, and teach with other learners.
This course also comes with built-in exercise files that you can download. These files are extensive (an impressive 573 KB!) and offer you supplements that can be paired with the instruction in the video. I printed some of them off to have on hand as I was walking through the materials in the course. It was a nice addition to an already thorough class.
If you like this class, you might want to consider taking some of the others taught by John David Ariansen on LinkedIn Learning. All are designed and released with Madecraft. Most have been released within the last year, too, making them some of the most relevant options you will find on these topics:
- Business Analytics: Marketing Data
- Introduction to Business Analytics
- Business Analytics: Sales Data
- Power BI Top Skills
Complaints About the Course
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I wish LinkedIn Learning had more free resources for learners. As it is, it’s tough to find quality online courses, and having to pay $30 or more to take a class is a bit prohibitive. Granted, the benefit of joining LinkedIn Learning is that you can take unlimited courses with your annual or monthly premium membership, but still, the cost can be a bit of a limiting factor for some students.
I was sad to see that the course didn’t come with built-in quizzes. This may sound odd, but I personally enjoy being able to take a quiz at the end of each course segment. It shows me exactly what I should have learned at the end of the section so I know that I’m ready to move on to the next. Other courses have offered this capability, along with the ability to jump back in the course to figure out what I missed.
It’s somewhat disappointing to see that there isn’t continuity in course structure on all of these courses on LinkedIn Learning but that is sadly something that is true of most online course platforms, too.
Who is the Power Bi With Excel Course on LinkedIn Learning Best For?
For students who are familiar with Excel and want to know how Power BI can help enhance their businesses, this course is an absolute godsend. Although it doesn’t go into great detail about how to use the two together, it does give a good overview of the many benefits of doing so. Ideal for business and technology professionals alike, this course is one that I would recommend to just about anyone.