Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Educational Big Data-- Some Suggestions In Addressing Real Concerns

As I pointed out in the last post, how we handle E-Learning Big Data is extremely important not just to the learner but to all of us who place a  high value on the paths that this generation follows. If you consider the fact that these learners will be the architects of the future that we all must live in, the decisions based upon the insights that are teased out of individual Big Data have consequences which will lead to cascading effects on all elements of human life. Insights drawn carelessly or as the result of questionable motives on the part of the interpreters could result in decisions that are made that will leave our societies much poorer in that identified needs are not met. The darker side to this is that through manipulation of Big Data, the insights drawn might be designed to favour or skew in favour of one element of society over another.

 I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories as much as I recognize that temptation has always been a human failing and in a world where there are so many shades of grey when it comes to ethical behaviour, motivation needs to always be under the spotlight but I am hopeful that we are about to witness a revolution in the way that business organizations and in fact education conduct their affairs using the paradigm "People Before Profit". In order for this revolution to happen in a global context, the generation and use of Big Data is the tipping point, especially in education.

Highlighting and Addressing Practical Concerns With Educational Big Data

  1. The Issue of Privacy: With respect to the combined data of 1000 or more learners, who gets to see the data? Who gets to see a single learner's data? How will this data be protected? We can not assume that such important data is safe because of the technology we use. The "fly in the ointment" is human behaviour and its propensity for flawed design and protocols when it comes to protecting sensitive data. With the recent break ins and the theft of detailed customer data from large retail organizations, the vulnerabilities of our security designs and protocols are highlighted.Having privileged access to information on people is big business in regards to identity theft and strategic information is also the new currency in all kinds of criminal activities. One of our problems is our level of arrogance when we adopt a new technology without considering its potential misuse. Consider the use of cloud computing. I have heard over and over again about how safe data is when stored on virtual servers but I am not convinced because time has not been taken to explain the security protocols to those who place their sensitive data in a stranger's hands.
  2. Transparency: The purpose for generating educational Big Data is to enrich education experiences for the people it serves. The goal is achieving high quality that will enrich the quality of life for the learners. Learners have the right to know how learning data will be used, shared and most importantly, leveraged. For example, should educational Big Data be available to politicians prior to an election? Keep in mind that the power of Big Data is in the insights that can be drawn from the Big Data. Those insights should be focused on with the motive of improving education for the learners but in the hands of those who have vested interests that really have nothing to with quality education and more to do with acquiring power at whatever cost, we have a good reason to tread carefully. It is very easy to draw insights from data that are not really supported.
  3. Expense: Acquiring some data that will be used in Big Data may require us to make a substantial investment if we are to acquire data that has an impact. The variation of Big Data sources needs to be carefully evaluated as to what it contributes to completing the big picture for learners.
  4. Many Factors Affect Learning: We need to be aware and prioritize factors in terms of the degree of impact that they have on learning. Data collected from the research findings of neurocognitive scientists needs to be carefully assessed as to the impact that it has on our understanding of the learning process.

Considering the use of Big Data and learning in the business organization, the focus needs to change from its traditional emphasis to one that is more in line with the creation of a genuine learning culture in which employees are empowered to learn and apply their learning to the mission of the company. This means that the decisions makers of the business organization need to put into place infrastructure to handle Big Data as it relates to the learning of not only its lower level employees but also the levels of management. This might lead to a change from the traditional hierarchical structure to more of a flat structure.

So, what does what happens in the learning culture of a business have to do with Big Data in educational organizations?

You can answer that question by looking at the new generation of employees coming into the business organizations and remember that it was the insights gained from the use of educational Big Data that brought them to your door. This will either be to the gain of the organization or to its loss depending upon how the educational Big Data was interpreted and by whom and for what motives.
Tread carefully, insights in educational Big Data affect the future paths that learners are led down.

Next... Higher Education and E-Learning--Has there been any progress?

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