Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Analytics and Education

I recently posted about Google Analytics and quite coincidentally I just read today an article by Marc Parry of The Chronicle of Higher Education about analytics being used in education: Colleges Mine Data to Tailor Students' Experience. As I am learning more and more about analytics I am fascinated at the areas to which it can be applied - from sport, to finance, to pharmaceuticals, and even to making cement. In the past educators have tried to link performance with data culled from Learning Management Systems (LMSs) - but now analytics is taking things to a new level.

Parry writes that "colleges are converting the student experience into numbers to crunch in the name of improving education". Analytics are being used to pair students up to help each other, form groups for study, help applicants choose the right college and the right course, show early warning signs of student disengagement, and even to predict grades. There are ethical and privacy considerations to consider too - in the future tools like Facebook may replace LMSs.

I like the idea of using educational data to predict student performance. Every college has masses of data stored in Student Management Systems for many years now. The Central Applications Office (CAO) also has masses of data on Leaving Certificate performance. Combined with demographic data a clear picture could be drawn on the profile of successful and unsuccessful students. Think of this in the hands of a career guidance teacher who could help a student with a certain set of grades in particular subjects by showing how previous students with similar records have performed in their college courses of choice. Not 100% accurate, but an indicator nonetheless.
Image link to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
As Parry states: "No one quite knows where education's analytics revolution will lead, but it's a safe bet that today's experiments will seem crude compared with what's coming".

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