Answer to "What is a heat map?"


Topic Editor: Dr. Martin Pusic, New York University


The increased digitization that is the basis of learning analytics enables a wide variety of data and information computer visualizations.  A full catalogue of the types of graphics possible is beyond the scope of askAMEE but the "heat map" is a good example a computer generated graphic that can generate meaning beyond the numbers and text.  Below are two examples taken from our education practice.





A particular type of heat map termed a confusion matrix because it readily surfaces categories that are confused one with the other.  This grid represents 10,000 responses of students interpreting electrocardiograms within a limited range of diagnostic possibilities.  The vertical column represents student responses while the horizontal axis represents the faculty gold standard answer for each category.  Any one cell is the intersection between the student response and the faculty response.  Cells on the diagonal are cases correctly diagnosed by the student.  Cells off the diagonal are incorrect responses, representing specific diagnoses that were confused.  The columns are normalized to add up to 100%.  The more intense the colour, the greater the proportion that that cell makes up of the column total.(Graphic courtesy of Dr. Thomas Prasloski, University of British Columbia). 


  1. Pecaric M, Boutis K, Beckstead J, Pusic M. A big data and learning analytics approach to process-level feedback in cognitive simulations. Academic Medicine. 2017 Feb 1;92(2):175-84.

  2. ImageSim  Demonstration.

Fracture Image.JPG
Correct Diagnosis.JPG