Using Big Data in Higher Education to Drive Results

Big data image under magnifying glassHave you taken the big data leap? The ability to analyze large data sets gathered from myriad sources can be used, among other things, to recruit, nurture, and maintain your student body—as well as, later, to inspire donations. Read on to learn more about utilizing big data in your institution.

What is Big Data?

The term refers to collections of data so large and complex that they cannot be parsed, processed, or understood by humans using traditional methods. No single spreadsheet or pivot table, in other words, can handle big data alone.

One example of a dataset that qualifies as “big data” comes from the Economist. “Wal-Mart…handles more than 1 [million] customer transactions every hour,” which adds up to, “the equivalent of 167 times the [information in all the] books in America’s Library of Congress.”

In other words, it’s lots and lots of data.

Where Does All This Data Come From?

More information is available to us today than ever before. The In Focus Blog from EMC2 tells us that in higher education we’re collecting big data from “social media, student-professor meeting notes, blogs, student surveys,” and more.

How is Big Data Used in Higher Education?

From helping administrators target potential enrollees, to helping students choose the best classes for them, to helping instructors track student progress, there are dozens of time- and money-saving applications for big data in the higher education environment.

If your institution is interested in offering a MOOC, working well with big data will be essential to the process, for how else can educators track the progress of thousands of students at once?

Big Data in Linguistics and Language Learning

Language learning is not exempt from the big data craze. Sali Tagliamonte, professor of linguistics at the University of Toronto, “considered how different kinds of datasets can track patterns in language variation by sex, age, education and place.” Resources like the Rosetta Stone® Language Learning Suite for Higher Education show how the use of data on even a smaller scale can help improve student results dramatically.

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