Analytics is a powerful tool that allows contextual and actionable insights to be extracted from large data sets. Just as it can help STEM fields and businesses improve their practices and streamline testing, it can also work to improve education. Students need better learning environments, improved learning tools, and ideally, a curriculum that teaches based on their strengths and is mindful of individual weaknesses.
The volume of data has expanded far beyond any singular person’s ability to comprehend or draw understanding from. This is true for businesses as it is for those who work in policy or those working with Big Data. The volume makes human analysis impossible, but as we have expanded on the data available globally, so too have we increased our computational abilities.
Though there are algorithms available to extract and draw contextual information from large and unruly data sets, many of those who work in education have still not invested as fully as they should have in the potential and power of data analytics.
The power of analytics is not just to find information that you could manually determine with enough time. It is problem-solving in its truest form. Data analytics does more than just provide a few insights or sorts of together data on your behalf, and it has evolved beyond that.
From automated testing to using historical data to understand demographic changes and trends. With the right approach, the educational sector can use current and historical data to understand better its students, their needs, and how educators around the world can rise up to improve the quality of education for all.
Analytics is typically the smartest method to cut down the costs as it speeds up the testing process. This applies to STEM markets just as much as it can apply to the educational sectors.
The Challenges of Introducing Analytics
There are several challenges that are inhibiting the wide-range use of analytics. The same problems plague those working in Big Data. In the educational sector, however, the problem stems from two key issues. The first is data collection. The second is privacy concerns.
Each country and even subsets within these countries have different privacy laws, meaning that a grand-scale, Big Data approach to education analytics is complicated. First data must be properly encrypted, and personal information anonymized before analytics can get their hands on it.
Then there is the issue of getting the right data. Analytics works best when it can analyze user behavior. Polling students after each lesson on what they learned and their experience is not viable, and unfortunately, it needs to be necessary to gain more insight into student learning environments.
Thanks to online learning tools and digital learning environments, however, more information and data is becoming the norm, enabling new possibilities for analytics in education.
The Role for Future Educators
While teachers, lecturers, and other student-facing faculty do not need to invest or use analytics to improve their ability to do their jobs, those who are looking to advance their career into leadership and policy must absolutely look into how analytics can improve their efforts. Combining the quality education they earned from their masters of education online with even a rudimentary understanding of Big Data, analytics, and strategy implementation can put them in a powerful position to direct their attention to students’ unseen needs in their sector.
While at the moment, higher education is the one focussed on analytics and how it could potentially improve their own service for students, the benefits extend to all levels of education. It is up to policymakers and educational departments, NGOs, and consultants to use analytics to help better understand students today of all ages and to rise to meet their needs in ways that previous generations could not.
What Can Analytics Do for Education?
At the moment, there is no clear way to understand how current educational strategies are impacting future generations. This applies to those at all levels. Due to this lack of output understanding, educational sectors do not have a clear understanding of which strategies, tools, and practices should be cut, which should be evolved, and which should stay the way they are.
It is widely understood that educational reform is essential, but there is yet no clear understanding or consensus on how to reform education to best suit students at large.
The ultimate goal of analytics is to provide a more robust toolset for students and teachers to use. In a perfect world, the curriculum should be adjusted for the individual. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, the student should learn to their best capabilities, with any additional needs (physical or cognitive) taken care of at the start.
The Limits of Analytics
Analytics can help improve the strategies and tools used by educators and students alike. It cannot accurately, however, understand and analyze “softer” elements of learning. For example, motivation, safety, home life, informal school interactions, friendships – all of these can impact a student, and even with questionnaires, it can be very hard to extract necessary insight on what amounts to the individual condition.
How Has Online Learning Changed the Potential for Analytics
Online learning offers educators and policymakers the opportunity to delve into large collections of data from real-time learning environments. This essentially means that the classroom has become its own Google Analytics. Not every digital learning environment offers this, of course. Zoom classrooms are just as analog when it comes to analytics as a physical classroom.
However, online learning platforms can collect a lot of user data that can help educators understand how their tool is used and gain insights into the program and learning styles of their students.
The last year of online education has meant a huge increase in the data that is now available to analyze, but we still have a long way to go before the data that we have amassed can be used in a concrete, actionable way to change the future of education.
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