Like organizations, educational institutions too are amassing huge amounts of data by the day. The data springs from a broad range of sources such as learning activities, grades, textbook purchases, attendance, location, socio-economic data, enrollment forms, parental status etc. Till a few years back, this data could have been put to little use, except for maintaining institutional statistics or producing profile report. But today, thanks to analytics, this data is seen more as wealth from which insights can be mined to customize and enhance individual learning.
Wichita State University’s (WSU) is one such institution which tracks vast amounts of data to get insights into student performance. Using a range of student data points, such as the amount of hours enrolled during each semester, paper grades, and whether they’re employed part-time or full-time or not employed, the extent of monetary assistance from family and a host of other factors, the institution can anticipate which students are likely to face problems and accordingly optimize their offerings to help them.
The Use of Analytics in Education
A major drawback with our education system is that we invest without quite knowing how our inputs impact our outputs. Consequently, we have no understanding of which academic practices to curb and which to encourage to get the best output. It is precisely because of this, that the output of different learners for the same course has always been different and unpredictable. With the advent of analytics, it is now possible to understand the factors that contribute to each learner’s success. We can now parse a student’s past academic performance and interests, and suggest assistance for improvement supported by evidence.
In other words, analytics has made it possible to design customized curriculum which can adapt to the needs of each learner based on their pace and learning experience. Realizing this need, customized curriculum, Kentucky has linked K–12 and post-secondary data to provide high schools a clear understanding of their students’ preparedness for college. Likewise, Utica Community Schools in Michigan created a data system to identify and share student learning needs with parents.
The Road Ahead
In today’s data-driven world, educational institutions have their tasks clearly cut out. Firstly, they need to develop an organized approach to using data. To ensure this, they need to prepare themselves to shift to a culture of data-informed decision making, and embrace technology that fosters transparency between educators, students, parents and administrators. Lastly, they need to work towards tailoring programs that include non-school-related learning into the curriculum. Only then, it would be possible to get the best results out of learning analytics.