Home' Campus Technology : September 2013 Contents ANALYTICS
CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | September 2013
Wanted: Data Jockeys
As far as APUS' Ice is concerned, the sky's the limit when it
comes to the potential of predictive analytics in higher ed-
ucation. The next big thing at his institution is repurposing
software from Adobe Marketing Cloud (previously Omniture),
which delivers personalized experiences online. In a business
setting, for example, the tool might make purchasing recom-
mendations based on analytics about what the customer is
currently doing. "I'm not saying that education is a commer-
cial transaction," says Ice, "but the math that underlies how
to get someone to a point of sale can be repurposed to un-
derstand what type of content and educational experience to
provide to a student to optimize learning outcomes."
The biggest barrier to this bright future, says Ice, is finding
qualified people who understand the software and the com-
plex math involved. "Higher ed is so short of the human capi-
tal they need around analytics," he laments. "A lot of [institu-
tions] are not going to be able to implement the extremely
robust stuff by themselves."
The hope is that organizations like WCET's PAR Framework
and Civitas can fill the gap, bringing together schools to share
the work of compiling and normalizing the data, creating mod-
els, and customizing them for individual use. But Ellen Wagner,
executive director of WCET, cautions against looking too far
ahead. In her view, most schools aren't ready to start doing "all
kinds of unstructured, deep-dive, Hadoop types of analysis to
find patterns we've never seen before." Better, she suggests,
to "find insights from the data we already collect."
Wagner's prediction? The next few years will be a "really
interesting time of trying things out and looking for answers. I
think everyone is a little nervous."
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor of
Right Space at
the Right Time
3 PREDICTIONS FOR ANALYTICS
1) Multiple Learning Paths. Phil Ice, VP of research and development at the American Public University System, believes
that learning analytics will drive development of courses that provide multiple learning paths. As a result, he says, "you're going
to have to build out six to seven times more content for one course than you do now." This will jack up the cost of developing
and maintaining a single course by as much as $100,000. To share the burden, says Ice, universities will begin to partner in
the creation of a common curriculum for 100-level classes. At that point, he adds, "the real differentiator becomes the faculty
members at each institution---how they add their personal touch and the interactions [they have] with the students."
2) Assessments Based on Trace Data. Rey Junco, a faculty associate at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at
Harvard University (MA), sees great promise in the growing use of trace data for creating assessments. He compares it to the
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a personality test with hundreds of questions that provide insight into a person's
mental health. "They use statistics alone to be able to discriminate between groups of people who have certain psychological
disorders," says Junco. "So a question that looks as if it [is completely unrelated] could tell you if a person is depressed, for
instance, or if a person is lying about their answers." Junco believes trace data could be used in similar fashion. "There are going
to be variables in the cloud [of trace data] that are going to be highly predictive of students' behavior and characteristics that
lead to their success or lack thereof."
3) Instruction Based on Learning Styles. Mark Milliron, chief learning officer of Civitas Learning, foresees the day when
students will be able to use an app that guides them to the most effective learning resources based on how they learn best. "[It
might say] something simple like, 'A student similar to you who was stuck on this chemistry concept found these three learning
objects to be useful. Click here to use them.' Wouldn't that be great?" he marvels. "That's not rocket science. This is stuff we
can do if we can connect the dots."
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