By Alan Anderson, David Semmelroth

Big data is making dramatic changes in the field of education. One area that has shown particular promise is computerized learning programs, which provide instant feedback to educators. The data gathered from these programs can provide key information to identify key challenges:

  • Students who need extra help

  • Students who are ready for more advanced material

  • Topics that students are finding especially difficult

  • Different learning styles

This information enables educators to identify problem areas and come up with alternative methods for presenting material. Computerized testing can also be used to better understand the different techniques used by students to learn the same material. For example, some students do better with visual examples, but others do better with more numerically oriented examples. Educators can use data to customize training to the needs of individual students.

Additional advantages of using big data in education include the following:

  • Improved ability to develop curricula that address student needs

  • Development of customized instruction for each student

  • Improvement of tools used to assess student performance

Several issues can arise with the use of big data in education. To use the data that’s gathered, large investments may be required to upgrade hardware and software capabilities. Another potential issue is privacy concerns as student data becomes available to educators — clearly, safeguards need to be put into place to ensure that this data remains confidential.