Expanding Data Science Fluency Across the CDC

The Challenge: Reaching Learnings at Different Levels of Data Literacy

Providing the public with timely information in a way that’s broadly understandable and actionable is a key part of CDC’s mission. Doing so requires the ability to share data, analyses, and insights quickly, easily, and accurately with external public health stakeholders—like hospitals and state, tribal, and municipal agencies—as well as throughout CDC’s hundreds of internal laboratories and public health programs. Information often must pass between roles, projects, and offices that have previously worked on siloed systems, and that have differing areas of expertise and varying levels of data fluency.

With EDAV, Booz Allen assembled a collection of powerful tools that facilitate data sharing in a number of ways. EDAV allows CDC to store more kinds of data from more types of sources, and to analyze these data using new and innovative approaches. By creating a centralized, cloud-based hub for data storage and analysis, EDAV promotes collaboration by making it easier for teams from different projects and organizations to share, access, and work with each other’s data and insights. It also centralizes solutioning and reduces redundant labor by letting CDC’s teams find, share, and reuse the various data pipelines they build in the course of their work. All of this helps to seriously streamline the travel of useful information from surveillance to response, from laboratory to local health leaders, or from the policy office to the newsroom.

But, as is often the case with a new set of tools, in order to make good on its potential impact, EDAV would need to win over a workforce that already had established ways of doing things using legacy applications. To get ahead of this challenge, Booz Allen’s technology, data science, public health, and workforce development experts worked together to develop a learning platform that anyone at CDC can use to improve their overall data literacy and ability to make use of EDAV’s many capabilities.

The Approach: Using Human-Centered Design to Develop a Tailored Learning Platform

To effectively reach the thousands of potential EDAV users within CDC’s workforce of more than 15,000 employees and contractors, Booz Allen needed to tailor the Data Academy to the needs of a wide variety of learners, from career data scientists to policy analysts. To understand these needs and design for them, our human-centered design experts gathered data on CDC’s entire workforce and interviewed employees from across the spectrum of potential users. We used this information to develop a training experience that was both customized to observed user needs and scalable to the entire workforce. To ensure that we appropriately captured user perspectives and developed a product that they found helpful and intuitive, we piloted early versions of Data Academy with key user groups and incorporated their feedback into the full-launch version.

The result is a data science learning resource that is as useful for a data pipeline developer as it is for a program manager. 

The Solution: Data Academy Is Helping Advance CDC's Public Health Mission

Today, the Data Academy is fully integrated into CDC’s intranet, where thousands of the agency’s employees can now easily access online courses, rate the quality of the material, and advance their knowledge along tiered learning paths designed for data developers, analysts, and consumers. The learning paths were constructed, piloted, and fine-tuned based on the expressed needs of CDC’s many different types of EDAV users, from those just beginning their data science journeys to those who will be using the platform’s most advanced tools to develop their own data products and dashboards. While most of the trainings are focused on individual tools like Tableau, the Data Academy also provides guided walkthroughs for common workflows and procedures that span multiple EDAV tools.

Throughout the information-gathering and testing phases, CDC’s workforce expressed a need for self-paced learning to accommodate their busy schedules and we heard them loud and clear. Data Academy’s courses are entirely self-paced and remotely accessible, so they can be picked up and left off at each individual learner’s convenience. Learners can track their journey through gamified elements like progress bars and new-skill badges, and test what they’ve learned using practice datasets and public health-focused capstone projects. Leaders at CDC can monitor Data Academy’s popularity and effectiveness through a metrics dashboard that includes anonymized participation and success rates and experience satisfaction scores. 

To control costs and speed production, we surveyed the entire data science learning landscape and used existing courses and instructional materials for EDAV’s tools wherever we could. When we couldn’t find an excellent resource to meet an identified need, we built our own from scratch.

Six months after its spring 2022 launch, the Data Academy had logged more than 600 unique students, 3,400 hours of training, and 3,000 courses completed.

Through open and agile data modernization initiatives like EDAV and the Data Academy, CDC is moving beyond outdated software, embracing new technologies, and innovating powerful new ways to safeguard the health of the nation and its many communities. Booz Allen is proud to support the agency on this continuing digital transformation journey. 

Learn more about our data science work for life sciences and public health agencies