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Textbook Examples: How Big Data Is Shaping Education Today

28 January, 2015

Textbook Examples: How Big Data Is Shaping Education Today

Big data has infiltrated almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives and education is no exception. Big data is changing the way students learn and receive instruction in and out of the classroom. Algorithms analyze behavior as well as performance on tests, quizzes, papers and all other aspects of school.

Despite the relatively quick implementation of big data analytics in the business sector, the field of education has lagged behind. This slow adoption of big data is due to a variety of factors including:

  • Lack of understanding how to use and store data
  • Uncertainty of how big data can better education
  • A need for managing the technology
  • Fear of invasion of privacy

Fears of Big Data

The last point seems to cause the most concern, especially among educators and parents of schoolchildren. Parents fear that sensitive information concerning their children will be too easily accessible to third-party businesses that will use this information against their children. Chief privacy officers are being hired in educational institutions–even in the U.S. department of education—to ensure that individual privacy is protected and FERPA is enforced.

Aside from these fears, companies have attempted to pave the way for more integration between big data and education. Backed by the Gates and Carnegie foundations, inBloom was created as a non-profit organization that ran a data service to manage student data. However, after operating for just over two years, inBloom ended its operations due to an increase in privacy concerns and legislation. The company attempted to organize data and make it available to approved third parties that would then use the information to develop tools that educators could implement in the classroom.

While inBloom may have failed, it lit the path for future companies to mix big data and education. BubbleScore has created a product that eliminates the hour-long grading process teachers have previously had to work through in order to understand scores and give feedback to their students, allowing teachers more time to focus on individual students.

Managing Big Data

Collecting student data is no new subject. School districts countrywide already collect and analyze a student’s work through standardized testing, but implementing big data analytics will make this collection of in information more efficient and effective. Big data analytics would allow educators to more rapidly uncover insights about students and they way they learn and then use this information to shape how students are taught. In essence, big data can be used to help tailor education to individuals.

However, managing and storing big data isn’t so easy. To really take advantage of big data in education, more than just grades need to be analyzed. As The Economist points out, things like attendance, sports participation, disciplinary action and medical records need to be gathered to get a more complete snapshot of a student’s standing. By accumulating this information educators could potentially place students with teachers that match their learning style best.

In a recent Mashable article, ThinkCERA CEO said, “Data is changing the way people think. From critical accountability to teacher accountability to the way we arrange time, our learning spaces, technologies — data is disrupting everything.”

Integrated data and education still has big opportunity for growth, and this growth will be seen as privacy concerns are addressed and reduced. Data analytics used in conjunction with educational efforts can minimize a teacher’s reliance on grading and analyzing and provide away for clear and thorough analysis of each individual student that can lead to a more supportive educational experience unique to each student.

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