Thursday, March 17, 2016

E-Learning and Big Data: A Light At the End of the Tunnel?--Part I

When we consider the rapid growth of technology and how the technology might help support a needed transformation in the pedagogy of E-Learning, we are presented with a number of exciting options from  new and more adaptive LMS's to the use of AI and totally immersive E-Learning environments.

We can't help but ask the question:

"Are we finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to E-Learning?"

What is implied by this question is the observation that we see existing options starting to be further developed and come into the mainstream of E-Learning instructional design and others that have not been able to withstand scrutiny, disappear. However, there is still a troubling question that we need to carefully consider:
"Have we seriously considered all the ramifications of adapting new options, especially options that may have a dark side to them for learners?

The use of "Big Data" in E-Learning is one of the exciting options that we need to carefully examine all perspectives on.
The Rise of Big Data

One of the current rising stars in the business world is something called "Big Data". Three companies in particular that make use of Big Data are Google, Amazon and Apple. It should not be a surprise to consumers when these companies are able to determine your likes and dislikes in many aspects of your daily lives and then almost "magically" make personalized suggestions on what you should read, buy and think. From the perspective of these companies who have access to a myriad of personal "Big Data" that is mined from all the "digital bread crumbs" that you leave due to your online presence, they are merely looking after their customers as good corporate citizens should do. however, from the point of view of the individual, the troubling question faced is:

"Who should have the key to your personal data and what degree of access should they have without  your permission?"

 You might ask what this has to do with E-Learning. In this age of information and knowledge, more than ever before, business and education are intricately linked and in fact it is a relationship that is taking on a digital symbiotic nature but not in the way that existed in the industrial economy.

The term "Big Data" originally was coined by the "Open Source" community. The term refers to the large amount of information that flows through various online pathways each second. It is data that is far too large, complex and dynamic  for conventional tools to capture and manage. Many of today's business organizations are data driven and now thanks to technology advancements and predictive analytics, it can be interpreted and analyzed. The goal is to draw insights from large amounts of data that give direction. Its value to the education world is that data is collected across a huge variety of demographics, backgrounds, learning styles, thinking processes, IQ levels, academic intentions, environmental factors, skills and potentials. This data can be tracked through LMS's, social networks and other media. Even the young teen playing online video games with his or her X-Box One is contributing Big Data to the portfolio of individualized data. On the surface, the benefits to education are the insights that the data provides to help design instructional strategies, evaluate impact of strategies on both student and teacher emphasizing an evidenced based production of data. However, one question to consider is:

"Where does "small data" that is gathered in the classroom daily fit into the big picture?"

Next.........The Nature of Big Learning Data

No comments: