Big Data for Smarter Education


Few people seem to have a clear understanding of what big data in education means, what is the output, how it can affect the life of students and teachers or coaches and players, or even the differences between fundamental types of data.

What if teachers have a more sophisticated way to monitor students’ progress and obtain clues as to why some gave the wrong answers or struggled to understand certain concepts. Education technology companies are now using big data analytics to offer teachers a new tool to ensure success, using personalized testing to create detailed profiles for individual students, gathering roughly 10 million data points for every child.

Imagine a student at high school had an IQ assessment; by that analysis we can monitor the answers if the student chooses an answer and then reevaluated it. Now we can track the student odds to identify the logic of causing the moment of doubt and using it to measure how he/she responds to the information provided by online learning tools or textbooks to see what works and what needs to be revised.

The idea is to personalize each student’s educational experience such as a user watching a video clip on YouTube and switch on the auto-play button to see all the videos with the same genre. The more the online usage the more data is being generated; this gathered data can teach us about the user’s behavior towards the way of education.

Big data or educational data mining focuses on developing algorithms for studying data and discovering data patterns taking in consideration what sequence of topic is most effective for the student, which student actions are associated with the grades, which actions indicate engagement and satisfaction, and how the student can improve his online learning by choosing the best feature that leads for better learning experience.

When a student learns or studies online, he/she is using an online learning system affiliated by Big Data analytics, which can interact with the student by delivering individual subject content and assignments; this set of data is collected and stored in a database to make predictions about the student’s future performance.

Those predictions are displayed on visual dashboards that help students personalize appropriate learning material that matches their interest and performance level; the same results will be sent to teachers to help the student as much as possible.

School systems in the USA recently deployed a data analytic system using big data technology by creating a computer system to store data in a secure, common format that gave the schools complete control over what data they collected, how it was used, and with whom that data was shared. The software was open source and a non-profit organization was formed to run it, backed with USD 100 million from the Gates and Carnegie Foundations that increased passing rates more than 10% and cutting dropout of schools rates in half.

If we are looking for inspiration when it comes to big data analytics, Germany’s national soccer team won the 2014 World Cup by educating the coach and staff with all analyzed data of each player in their team and the opposite teams, and applying the needed techniques to train their players how to win the game. After each match, big data tools collect all videos recorded from all cameras that surround the pitch transforming the pitch into a grid, and assign a unique identifier for each player, allowing their movements to be tracked digitally by collecting numbers of touching the ball, distance travelled, movement speeds, and directional changes.

For the German national team, one of their key targets ahead of the World Cup was to improve their passing speed and that was obvious change from average possession time around 3.4 seconds in 2010, to 1.1 second in 2014. Moreover, the same analysis was carried out on the other teams by studying each player and how they can interrupt their attacks and how they can penetrate their defenses, applying these strategies on the pitch; it was very obvious that there was a big difference between the performance of the German squad and the performance of other teams.

Big data is going to impact all educational systems, not only in schools and universities. It has already begun; if you are part of an education organization, you need to have a vision for how you will take advantage of big data.


*Published in SCIplanetSpring 2015 Issue.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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