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The Real Opportunity in Big Data

  • 2 Min Read

We often hear about the mystery of big data. From our perspective at Desire2Learn, big data is critical to our future and on a fascinating trajectory in the earliest decades of the 21st century.

What exactly is big data and what’s the opportunity?

The way we see it, it’s about how we derive meaningful insight from the sea of data that’s generated and becoming more available to us today. And it’s about how we use this insight to make predictions and influence future behaviors. We’ve seen this in our personal lives—for example, how our search engine queries turn into personalized marketing messages. Or how pollsters using the latest data processing and analysis techniques are becoming increasingly successful at predicting election outcomes.

There is no shortage of successful big data applications in other business verticals, and we’re seeing this trend expand into the education space. At D2L, we’re laser-focused on how we can leverage the data that students, instructors and institutions generate every day.

Our integrated learning platform (ILP) delivers on our clients’ need to personalize the learning experience and create a culture around student success, retention, and degree completion. I’m thrilled to see the progress many of our clients are making with big data in education:

  • Greenville College is currently piloting D2L’s Student Success System™ (S3) to analyze their existing data and gain a new perspective on their student’s progress. Read more about their early experiences here.
  • University System of Georgia recognized that a “body count” system that simply tells them who’s failed and who’s passed isn’t enough. What they need is to leverage real-time data to help them intervene with students before it’s too late. Hear some more perspective from USG’s Curt Carver here.
  • Dr. Tristan Denley—creator of D2L’s course recommendation system, Degree Compass™—released some groundbreaking research last year that proved Degree Compass helped substantial proportions of students achieve passing grades and improve graduation rates over a two-year period.

Our learning platform has been built around laying the groundwork to support big data projects for the past fifteen years. This big data advantage provides us with the foundation to bring numerous other innovations to life.

Where else can big data in education take us?

When I speak with clients or partners, it’s often about the potential of accessing other types of learning data but also about how we can leverage data in new digital collaboration and virtual knowledge tools, use language recognition to determine comprehension, deploy intelligent tutoring, or recognize individual cognitive learning pathways. We also recognize the opportunity to predict the best program or career paths for students or discover factors that create a student’s learning character and inspire lifelong learning. It’s incredible to think about the ways we can use technology and data science to discover the opportunities we have to create conditions for student success.

Where can we go beyond education?

Big data is also more than just the data that sits in the learning systems. Recently, D2L was announced as a founding partner of the Open Data Institute (ODI), an initiative to realize the potential of open data and information access. The ODI will advise and help unlock opportunities for career path guidance, talent retention, new job creation, and economic growth. You can read more about this initiative here.

Where do you see big data having an impact today and tomorrow? We’d love to hear your perspective. Chime in on twitter to continue the conversation!

John Baker

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