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Big Data in Education Sector Can Do Wonders – Let’s See How!

“Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.”

– Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.

When Berners-Lee talked about data, he wouldn’t have imagined it growing to a gigantic size encompassing all spheres of life. Think of Big Data, and you’ll understand what we’re talking about. From retail marketing to cloud computing, from improved patient outcomes to enhanced teaching-learning processes, Big Data has a major role to play in every sector. Big Data in education could be leveraged to enhance creativity, potential, and problem-solving ability among students. It can also open up a wide array of possibilities for students and teachers by freeing their minds, and setting them to do bigger things – and things that matter – rather than sticking to a standardized pattern of education.

Imagine a connected world, wherein teachers can not only analyse students’ answer sheets to understand their learning abilities but also get insights on why do some students give wrong answers or why do they find certain concepts difficult to grasp. The data available in the connected world makes it easier for educators to see what works and what needs revision, gives them tips and pointers to improve, and enhances their ability in delivering tailor-made lectures to inspire and invigorate students.

With the advancement in internet technology, the demand for online education is increasing, and educational institutions are eager to comply with the new norms and implement newer methods of teaching via online tutorials and e-materials. This has also increased the demand for online courses which, in turn, led to vast amounts of data generation. At the heart of this digital revolution lies the Big Data. As more schools start providing e-content to their students, the need to store the data keeps increasing.

The kind of information that has been collected, stored, analyzed and utilized in the past 5 years has influenced every realm of human life. Let’s look at some ways in which Big Data has helped, and can further help, boost the education sector.

Data analysis: Many schools are now using various analytics platforms to analyze the data available to not only improve their services and offers but also to modify the methods of teaching and course content. A lot of data, which is being gathered from students at different points via online learning systems, is leveraged to make the teaching process more meaningful, useful and interesting. As the number of students and courses increase, it leads to the explosion of data, analyzing which will be extremely beneficial to schools as well as students.

Predict trends and provide feedback: Big Data helps not only in analyzing and understanding the learning ability of students, but also in predicting their performance based on current trends. This will give teachers an edge and help them scrutinize each student’s ability to grasp, memorize, recall and reproduce, besides keeping track of their grades and scores. Based on the observations made via data analysis, recommendations can be generated and provided as feedback to both students and teachers, giving them ample scope for improvement.

Improved grading methods: A data-driven classroom helps in tracking and reporting students’ performance. When we look at modern classrooms today, we understand how digital curriculum and Big Data are changing the way teachers work. As newer perspectives penetrate the classroom walls, teachers are eager to integrate modern methods of teaching into their sessions, and provide a systematic real-time assessment by using improved grading systems.

Connected classrooms: As the whole world runs on the fuel of connectivity, classrooms cannot stay far behind, especially when it comes to leveraging the potential of data. However, one cannot undermine the power of human mind which ensures that the teaching processes remain student-centric and effective. We cannot forget the role of a teacher who assesses, scores, grades her students’ work, and provides valuable feedback. If utilized properly, the analytics platforms can provide schools with right tools and new perspectives on the teaching-learning methods employed in their classrooms to benefit students.

Personalized learning: Richard Culatta, Director, Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of  Education, once said: “Data is powerful when it tells you where you’re going from where you’re now. When we have data, it enables us to make changes and updates in real-time. Now, that’s the power of Big Data. You can actually use to it make changes and recommendations which are meaningful. We should start thinking about how we use data to customize and personalize learning.” Data-driven classrooms offer unique, personalized learning experiences to students. Big Data in education also helps educators streamline assignments, create materials and simplify grading, besides telling them what is working or not working, and which modules of their lesson plan are beneficial to students.

From data collection to data connection: “You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data,” says Daniel Keys Moran. One of the biggest assets of Big Data is its ability to consolidate information from different sources of data, both structured and unstructured, that the schools have access to. Library resources, online/offline content provided by teachers, project research materials or even data collected by the administrative staff – anything works! Identifying learning patterns of students leads to success, and that’s where Big Data gives schools an upper hand.

Course content development: By leveraging Big Data, schools and educational institutions can make smart decisions in terms of planning, designing and developing course materials, identifying related courses and eBooks, developing various other educational activities – all of which will assure long-term success in management of the organization, student enrollment, development strategies, and implementation of smart curriculum.

Problem management: “Things get done only if the data we gather can inform and inspire those in a position to make [a] difference,” says Mike Schmoker, author of FOCUS:  Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning and the 2014 recipient of the ‘Distinguished Service Award’ by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). The Big Data is not only about huge volumes but also about the diversity of data which is delivered at the fraction of a second. When used in the right manner, it provides teachers with the essential tools to detect undesirable student behaviors and implement proper correctional methods, thus nipping problems at the bud.

Detect patterns via real-time data: Students are known to produce real-time and contextual data through online social media websites, blogs and geo maps. If such unstructured and informal data is mined well, educational institutions can benefit as it enables them to detect certain patterns and provide real-time information on learners. This not only brings students into the focus, but also enhances connected learning environments. Educational institutions can leverage analytics platforms to determine learner behavior, attention span, performance evaluation, student feedback on teachers, etc.

In her article titled “The Roles of Big Data and Research in Improving Teacher Quality”, Amy Moynihan, Content Manager at Hanover Research, raises questions on how to connect Big Data, teacher quality and student achievement, when she writes: “We know that Big Data is a tool to drive innovation in education and that teacher quality impacts student achievement. So how can we use Big Data to improve teacher quality with the ultimate goal of increasing student achievement? How can we use Big Data to better predict the success that teachers will have in the classroom? What role can Big Data play in improving teacher quality relating to the training of future teachers, the teacher hiring process, and improving professional development for teachers?”
With Big Data now being used in new and innovative ways, we hope that some of these questions will be answered soon.

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