The Impact Big Data Is Having How We Learn

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In the past decade, learning has gone from a passive to an active experience. Brick-and-mortar institutions are no longer required to continue education in a formal way. From highly effective homeschooling programs to online colleges, to continued education and online tools to enhance your professional career, the opportunities to expand your intelligence from your desk are abundant.

One of the biggest technological advancements that has improved the quality of the learning tools we use is the aggregation and analysis of data. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education, “Big data captured from users’ online behaviors enables algorithms to infer the user’s’ knowledge, intentions, and interests and to create models for predicting future behavior and interest.”

Big data is empowering education companies to understand things they could not have previously. Companies like Edx are using that information to determine what kinds of classes can be taught online and which are better suited to a classroom environment.

When it comes to learning, there’s no doubt students have more options than ever before, learning at their convenience from home, the coffee shop, or the classroom. Here are three ways big data is evolving today’s learning landscape:

1. Big data and digital textbooks.

Textbooks of the future will be unrecognizable to anyone who carried around heavy backpacks in high school and college. The transition from a backpack full of books to a slim mobile device has been underway for some time, but the future of textbooks will be increasingly interactive, collaborative, and updated for accuracy in real-time.

“There is an abundance of information available in student’s reading habits and the amount of time they spend studying,” says Greg Fenton, CEO of Redshelf, a digital textbook company. “With online textbooks, publishers and professors now have access to data showing exactly how, how often, when and why students use textbooks.”

This information provides publishers with insights that inform the editorial process, and gives teachers access to information that can enhance their instruction based on student learning habits.

“With digital textbooks, updates can become automated, homework sections in the book can be graded in real time, video and audio files can be embedded, and the list goes on,” says Fenton.

2. Big data and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Its market value is already in the trillions and there are billions of connected devices, which is why the research firm IoT Analytics predicts IoT will surpass the economic output of Germany within the next 10 years. The IoT market shows no signs of slowing and touches nearly every industry, from consumer electronics, to manufacturing, to ecommerce and education.

Higher education benefits from IoT integration because its cloud capabilities reduce hardware costs. On average, students have three Internet-connected devices, creating an academic infrastructure that is no longer restricted by traditional barriers, such as geographical location, language, socioeconomic status or specialized learning needs.

“In the next three years, we’ll be seeing more campuses taking advantage of the current context in which students, administrators and instructors operate,” Itai Asseo, Strategic Innovative Executive for Salesforce said in an interview. “For example, by connecting a database of students’ submitted work, students’ schedules and the time of day, the institution can send reminders and alerts when they are most effective and each message can be personally tailored to the student.”

3. Big data and personalization.

With the abundance of data and analytics tools available comes the opportunity to create a higher level of personalization. No single learner is the same, thus teachers can be much more effective when armed with tools to evaluate students’ abilities and challenges.

Today’s textbooks are coming with more than just a digital copy, they often have web-based sites that include animations, sample quizzes and, in the case of Redbooth’s e-textbooks, the ability to highlight, take notes and collaborate with classmates.

Digital textbooks can benefit from an active feedback loop in which students and teachers can note areas of confusion or tools that are helpful. Adjustments made in real time can actually benefit students and teachers right away instead of semesters or years later.

Big Data: from classroom to corporate world.

The worldwide market for self-paced eLearning reached $47.9 billion in 2015, according to a report by Ambient Insight called, “The 2015-2020 Worldwide Self-paced eLearning Market.”

“The corporate e-learning market is mainly driven by the rise in digitization and the adoption of advanced technologies in the corporate sector. Incorporation of new technologies help improve teaching and learning methods,” said Jhansi Mary J., an analyst for Technavio. Additionally, Technavio’s latest market study estimates the market size of the global corporate e-learning industry will reach $31 billion in revenue by the end of 2020.

No longer is a brick-and-mortar classroom necessary for learning. And, some would argue a structured classroom is not conducive to learning. Technology will continue to influence the way we learn as it increasingly facilitates collaborative learning, but when and where it is convenient for the student