Saturday, March 19, 2016

E-Learning and Big Data: The Nature and Benefits of Big Learning Data

When we take a closer look at the nature of  Big Data as it relates to learning and in particular E-Learning, there are three standard elements used to describe it:

  1. Volume: Big Data can yield information on thousands of learners in the brick and mortar schools taking the same course or having the same instructional experiences. However, this grows exponentially when we look at E-Learning. using the world wide web, educational organizations can extend their reach on a global scale so that we are no longer looking at information from thousands but hundreds of thousands with the potential to reach millions as technology and infrastructure develops. MOOCS, such as Coursera  and Edx are just two organizations that are starting to reflect the exponentially growing access that is developing in E-Learning. With such volume, there are naturally benefits such as being able to provide a defining global perspective on education. There are also great dangers which will be addressed later. The level of scalability allows Big Data to be gathered from multiple institutions on a global level.
  2. Velocity: Big Learning Data enables learners or organizations to have rapid access to data in real time. Not only is Big Data accessed quickly but it is also agile in that it is constantly being updated at a rate determined by those who store the Big Data. This has the potential to make individualized instruction more of a reality since it drives customization based on the needs of each individual.
  3. Variety: For Big Learning Data to be effective, there needs to be a mechanism for the interconnecting and synthesis of a wide variety of information from students with different backgrounds.

Benefits of Big Data to Education

     First looking at how Big Data can direct L & D in a company, we identify three different types of data:

Credit: Surya P. Mohaptra
 The question that business organizations face in looking at their learning culture is the same one that ID's face in regards to the design of effective E-Learning in the education sector:

"Given the exponential growth of technology and information, what needs to change in order to capitalize on the new Big Data reality so that we are not paralyzed by this wave of change?"

In order to answer this question, we have to assert that the benefits outweigh the inherent risks and that we are willing to minimize the degree of risk through establishing effective protocols.
Some of the benefits of Big Data to E-Learning would be the following:

  1. Feedback: In the past feedback to the learner was limited to quizzes and tests at the end of a learning unit with the hope that the learner would take the attending comments seriously. The simple truth in such a situation was that we were helping the learner make decisions based on limited data and usually uni-dimensional data. Now with the rise of Big Data, we can provide the learner with more comprehensive information on learning experiences which allow him or her to compare with the performance of others who have had the same learning experiences. Feedback needs to be ongoing and multi-dimensional.
  2. Collaboration: Cross disciplinary design and learning is enhanced and encouraged through the collaborative use of Big Data. Discipline silos of information need to be changed to really promote collaboration. Protecting your turf in an age of information and learning is a naive attitude that can't stand in such an age.
  3. Tracking: The value of predictive analytics lies in the ability of the user to be guided into drawing insights. Big Data can provide insights into the real learning patterns of learners in E-Learning by following their "digital bread crumbs" that they leave when they work through an E-Learning course. Thankfully, advancements in AI research will make this task much more less onerous.

Next.... More Benefits and Ethical Concerns About Big Data

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