Education aims to encourage intelligence in students, of course. Can education also create intelligent data? An infographic from Open Colleges proposes online dashboards full of education-related data targeting different audiences such as students, teachers and administrators. Let's look at how the analysis of data about student performance might help improve the learning experience.
EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association of IT leaders and professionals focused on higher education, describes learning analytics as the collection and analysis of the "digital breadcrumbs" that students leave behind as they work with various computer systems. Data could provide results of online assessments or show how often students access online materials. These tech tools can crunch more numbers than teachers could on their own, with the goal of providing insights into student performance.
Could data help prevent students from dropping out of college? EDUCAUSE's Midwest Regional Conference in March 2013 addresses this topic: Using Business Intelligence and Data Mining to Support Retention and Graduation Efforts in Higher Education. This presentation describes a project using predictive analytics and analytical modeling to promote freshmen retention at the University of Pittsburgh.
According to the Open Colleges infographic, analytical tools might help teachers discover academic problems. For example, message boards reveal students' frustration, and their login times could also be revealing, if they're staying logged in much longer than other students or they're waiting a long time before logging back in again. Potentially, educational data could be customized to offer feedback and personalized solutions for students in difficulty. In the future, students might even be able to self-grade or grade each other.
More about Learning Analytics
Learning analytics is on the radar for the government as well as educators and technology professionals. Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics: An Issue Brief is available for download on www.ed.gov. The brief reports that the U.S. Department of Education's National Education Technology Plan examines how to use data from online learning systems to enhance education.
So why is learning analytics not more widespread? There are resource issues, according to the infographic, such as the need for manual data cleaning and formatting. Other obstacles include privacy issues and the concern that data could be misinterpreted. Along these lines, the Department of Education's study encourages schools to communicate with students and parents to explain where the data comes from and how it is used.
Despite the learning curve involved, the relationship of technology and education is getting ever tighter, so big data could be a big deal in tomorrow's educational institutions.
Using Business Intelligence and Data Mining to Support Retention and Graduation Efforts in Higher Education, EDUCAUSE, March 2013, http://www.educause.edu/midwest-regional-conference/2013/using-business-intelligence-and-data-mining-support-retention-and-graduation-efforts-higher-
7 Things You Should Know About First-Generation Learning Analytics, EDUCAUSE, December 2011, http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/7-things-you-should-know-about-first-generation-learning-analytics
Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics: An Issue Brief, U.S. Department of Education, October 2012, http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/research/
An Infographic by Open Colleges
An Infographic by Open Colleges