• Author:Tom Andrew
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Digging in to Big Data

Half a lemon, 2 eggs and 180C. Three pieces of data which in isolation mean very little. In the context of making a cake, they make the difference between success or failure. In a similar sense learning organisations gather lots of data, often stored on separate systems, serving a single purpose.

Now some organisations are attempting to produce a detailed picture of a learner’s progress by bringing together this fragmented data. Learning Analytics as it’s known, is an emerging concept which is gathering place across the world. In the UK, Jisc have been working for the past three years to develop a solution which will be offered to learning providers with fifty such organisations participating so far. The purpose of this is not to become “big brother” but to make use of the data we already have to improve teaching and learning by understanding our learners better.

The challenge is making sense of this data and transforming it into useful information. Attendance and punctuality data is an obvious example, but what about library loans? VLE usage? Time spent on campus when not in class? The key to big data is to look for patterns. Do learners who never visit the library make less progress than those who do? Is there an academic impact on travelling more than an hour to College each day? You may already be able to offer an opinion on those questions through your own experience, but this project is attempting to look at this and find how we can better act and respond to learners needs.

To find out more on Learning Analytics in the UK click here.

 

This article was first published in the May 2017 edition of the Society of Education and Training’s Journal, “Intuition”.