Big data’s potential for higher education

One of the many arenas where officials could benefit from big data deployment is higher education. With their large volumes of student information, including enrollment, academic and disciplinary records, universities have the datasets needed to benefit from a targeted analytics project.

Recent reports have suggested that administrators across the United States have become to realize the potential of analytics and have invested more resource into big data projects. Gartner's "Big Data, Bigger Opportunities: Investing in Information and Analytics" survey found that 42 percent of IT professionals across all sectors reported investing in big data projects or planning to do so in the coming year, reported Campus Technology. The report also identified higher education as field with great promise for big data application, citing the availability of various sources of data.

More data brings greater insights
Once universities begin investing more in Hadoop big data projects, they benefit from its many applications. SmartData Collective contributor Mark van Rijmenam argued that with the advent of massive open online courses, higher education administrators have an entirely new pool of data to access, which could provide even greater insights into a college's operations. With these tools, school officials could enhance various aspects of campus life, including student success and academic performance.

One of the ways educators can utilize big data tools is to analyze the performance and skill level of individual students and create a personalized learning experience that meets their specific needs. MOOCs could be especially beneficial in this instance, as the heaps of structured data contained within their records could be easily gathered and processed by data analytics tools. With more sophisticated analytics software, professors could monitor many different factors regarding student performance beyond simple right or wrong answers, including the amount of time needed to answer questions as well as any connections regarding the types of test questions that were skipped over. Education IT researchers have been developing adaptive learning software that can process this information during an assessment or lesson and recommend further exams or coursework based on a student's performance.

According to Mark van Rijmenam, big data tools could even analyze group dynamics, looking at the various strengths and weaknesses of individual students to determine the optimal arrangement. Group projects would have a more fairly distributed workload as the individuals involved would compliment each other's skill sets.

Ultimately, by enhancing the learning experience and improving student performance across the board, universities will be able to reduce dropout rates and increase their graduation numbers. In addition to the purely academic benefits, colleges could also expect a greater and potentially more loyal alumni base that would be more generous with its donations. Hadoop big data software can provide higher education IT teams with tools to build analytics programs customized for their specific needs and goals.

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