About the Question

Math Matrix

Photo credit: phsymyst / Foter / CC BY

From a desktop computer to a mobile device, from sending an email to just interacting through social media, we are generating a huge amount of big data, and we are doing so at a really fast pace. However, in order to extract useful information from this data we need to resort to analytics, which combines mathematics, computer science and data visualization to make abstract information meaningful and to get valuable knowledge from it.

Companies and organizations now have access to big data, which could lead to more personalized services in different areas, like business, medicine, transportation and even education. Indeed, the ICT revolution has also transformed the way we learn. Virtual learning environments allow managers, teachers and researchers to easily gather an immense quantity of data regarding students’ behaviour, interactions, preferences and opinions. When properly analysed — using learning analytics or educational data mining techniques — all these data might provide useful insight on how to make learning processes more adaptive, attractive and efficient.

Big data and analytics require professionals trained in a wide variety of skills. In recent years there has been an increasing need for workers in what are called the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and it is predicted that this demand will continue to grow during the coming decade. Nowadays, STEM areas can be regularly taught through e-learning and collaborative technologies, but is this enough? Could the knowledge obtained through data analytics enhance STEM education?

In this blog, we invite you to explore the social impact of big data and analytics on business, cities and, especially, how they are affecting educational processes and practices. This is relevant for an institution like the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. As a leader in research and application of ICTs in education, the analytics revolution is of high value for the UOC and its community.

Are learning analytics techniques allowing us to provide better support to our students? Are we enhancing STEM education? Are we taking advantage of big data and analytics to help shape the citizens of the future?