Data as King: Learning Analytics As Revelation

January 10, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Week one readings in Learning Analytics 2011 focus on the field of learning analytics and provides a basic overview of key terms and historical development. My reflections on these readings appear below:

Learning analytics is a dawning field of application. Moving the statistical analysis and data-driven decision making from business and technology industries into the educational industry is a new trend. Chief as cause of this adjustment is the increasing use of technology and, more specifically, the increased use of online education. More computers in use means more data generated and a plethora of musings on what the numbers mean and how current products and services can be tailored to meet suggested needs and expectations. In a sense, data analytics allows educators to pursue answers to the most important questions in the field: Is the student learning? Why is he or she learning? And what can the teacher do to make the student learn more?

These are all very important questions. Extensions of analytics moves away from student-centered considerations and focuses instead on the school itself and factors that affect student engagement and success. While still closely tied to student performance, this branch of analytics moves to discover answers to questions of school viability. Herein lies the major inspiration for analytics and the driving force of its development: competition in the market place.

Privatization of education creates a market for education. Firms competing are tasked with holding onto students and meeting government expectations for success. Interestingly the education field is unique in that students gradually develop over time and high mobile students may exist composites of learning experiences at multiple schools. Who has served the student best? Treating the student as a product is a sore spot for many, but ultimately analytics slides into cold analysis in the interest of all involved. Yes, we’re talking human beings here but with scholarship revealing trends in learning and student needs, the field of analytics can establish real improvement in a very efficient way.

Data is the king now. As we move into a society where online education plays a more important role we enter into a world of data possibilities. When an online school can generate and analyze reams of data an immediate comparison is born. Can a brick and mortar institution generate this data? Even beyond just the task of generating the data provides further perks to the online system. If an online institution can make powerful adjustments based on this data and provide real evidence of the benefits of such reactions there will remain little doubt to the power of analytics.

As an online instructor I am bias here, but I find it highly unlikely that an exclusively brick and mortar institution can function as effectively as an online school or school with an online based supplemental format. As the field of data analytics grows and beneficial decisions follow there will remain little excuse to deny students with the benefits of tech-heavy education. Student performance remains priority one for America’s education system and government policy will be unable to resist the power that these online services can provide.

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