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Big data and analytics in higher education: So near, yet…

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By Susan Grajek, Vice President for data, research and analytics, EDUCAUSE.

Big data and analytics are reshaping everything. Industry is using them to great effect, to better understand markets and customers, manage supply chains, and increase profits. Personalized medicine, fueled by analytics applied to big data, is poised to revolutionize healthcare. Higher education lags several paces behind these fields. Some institutions are demonstrating improvements in retention and degree completion, but most are still using data to monitor student outcomes and activities rather than predict or proactively intervene.

Certainly, trends related to analytics and data are influencing institutional IT strategy, more so than other types of trends EDUCAUSE tracks, including those related to teaching and learning and security and risk1. Data-driven decision-making, enterprise data management, and data integration issues are all already incorporated into or exerting a major influence on emerging IT strategy in at least half of US colleges and universities. Personalized learning, however, is only this influential at one in five institutions.

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Looking for solutions in wrong places

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By Audrey Watters, journalist, founder of Hack Education.

A writer specialized in education technology with her own blog on that topic — called Hack Education —, Watters believes that regarding the learning process we should focus on the individual level, rather than the massive one. Is big data going to give us the measure of “learning”, no matter how subjective the word is? Has this measure necessarily to be a number? By focusing on big data, wouldn’t be looking for the solutions in the wrong places? Get Watters’ reflections in the short video below, which was recorded at the EDEN Conference held in Barcelona.

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About the Question
Are Big Data & Analytics shaping a smarter society?

Every day we generate a huge amount of big data, but we need to resort to analytics to make abstract information meaningful and get valuable knowledge from it. In education, learning platforms let us easily gather an immense quantity of data regarding students’ behaviour, interactions, preferences and opinions. When properly analysed — through learning analytics — all these data might provide useful insight on how to make learning processes more adaptive, attractive and efficient.

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

Big Data and Simheuristics
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