Improving education with big data

Big data has not saturated the education field in quite the same way as other sectors such as retail, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. However, the technology has just as much to offer administrators looking to improve their institutions. Schools generate huge volumes of data, from test scores to admissions numbers. With the advent of online coursework, the amount of data available to school officials has exploded. This information can be leveraged with big data tools to not only enhance the business side of academics but also improve the overall quality of education provided to students.

SmartData Collective contributor Ana Andreescu recently argued for big data solutions to be more widely used in academia, citing the example of the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies' efforts to launch data mining projects using approximately three million student course records. The initiative has allowed the organization to gain insight into the relationships between retention rates, performance and demographics.

According to Inside Higher Ed, data analytics can be used inside the classroom as well. The burgeoning field of adaptive learning uses big data software to create a customized teaching process for each student. As the students progress through the material, the software analyzes their past responses to determine their level of comprehension. Based on that assessment, the program then provides new coursework that is suitable for their skill level. Education experts believe that this technology will not only provide students with a personalized learning experience tailored to their specific needs, but it will also free up teachers to give guidance and additional assistance to students who are struggling.

Big data has also been used by university administrators to improve student recruitment efforts. Staff members can use data analytics tools to learn what marketing tactics are the most effective and allot more resources to those campaigns. Using Hadoop big data tools, school officials can enhance their operations and improve the quality of education they provide.

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