Is Big-Data the Next Big Thing for the Educational Sector?

Association of Educators
March 25, 2014 — 1,723 views  

Famed educational expert and futurist, Dr. Jason Ohler has deemed Big Data as one of the top-five technological trends that have peaked their impact and will begin transforming education very soon.

Addressing the audience at the virtual conference of International Society for Technology in Education, Dr. Ohler discussed the impact of new technological changes on education. He held that both teaching and learning are set to be revolutionized in the near future by Big Data along with Augmented Reality, extreme BYOD, the semantic internet and transmedia storytelling.

So what is this Big Data

The term “Big Data” is used to refer to colossal amounts of data sets an organization collects. Big Data is, by definition, so large and complicated that it cannot be processed using the traditional data processing applications or database management tools. Organizations collect Big Data because its analysis helps them forecast emerging trends.

What this means for consumer companies is that they can discover the hottest trends in consumer behavior and consumption and then capitalize on the trend. Walmart for example, makes over 1 million transactions with customers in an hour. Data from all the transactions are imported into Walmart's Big-Data databases which contain over 2.5 petabytes of data. The retail giant then analyzes its Big Data to uncover consumer trends and modify products and services accordingly.

Similarly, social media platforms can use Big Data to highlight popular trends of communication and important news.

The role of Big Data in education

Collecting and analyzing the data of millions of students across the nation – names, test scores, aptitude scores, grades and so on can help educational and related institutions enhance teaching strategies. It can also help them  engage students in an improved manner.

Tech company ConnectEDU, for example, is creating a digital platform for teaching and learning where the progress of students across different schools would be tracked using a recommendations engine. The engine will also track the achievement data of students and compare both against the standards defined in the U.S. standards initiative, Common Core. Insights from the Big Data on the platform will help teachers customize their teaching methods and resources – improving individual student engagement.

Work has also begun on a similar project in New York where three companies are creating a web-based data portal for the students, teachers and parents of NY. The portal would help them record a students progress and seek customized resources for learning, in according with Common Core.

Further, many public schools are now actively using insights from Big Data to improve a range of functions including funding and hiring. McGraw-Hill Education is developing an adaptive learning system that tracks a students question-answer sessions. Based on its understanding of what the student couldn't answer and so doesn't know, it presents learning resources. Further, Big-Data's ability to track long-term student progress will help predict a teacher's success.

With multiple companies in the educational technology sector focusing on harnessing the power of Big Data, it sure appears to be the next big thing for the industry.

Association of Educators