Higher Education’s Big (Data) Bang: Part Two

Milliron said too many students are “flying blind” as they try to chart their higher education pathways, and Big Data tools are what will help fix that problem.

“However, far too many data strategies end up as little more than expensive edu-voyeurism, focusing high-cost data work on accreditation, trustee updates, or little used reports that essentially watch if students succeed or fail,” Milliron said. “If that’s where the resources go, we doubt folks will see a return on the investment.”

Jim Spohrer, the director of Global University Relation Programs at IBM, said Big Data is something people are just now beginning to understand, so the concerns and skepticism aren’t surprising.

While he said he agrees that not all Big Data technology is for everyone – a community college may not need a supercomputer like IBM’s Watson – he cautioned those who dismiss the explosion in interest as just hype.

“This is a real phenomenon,” he said. “Every job is being impacted by this. It really is time now to make sure all professions have some level of understanding of these tools. That’s what it’s really about, taking smarter actions, helping us make smarter decisions.”

Woosley said Big Data’s role in higher education is not a black and white scenario. There are untold benefits to tapping into the wealth of information now available to universities, but there are some serious pitfalls as well.

The knowledge of those pitfalls could get lost in the noise as the hype machine’s engine continues to rev.

“I’ll admit I am starting to cringe whenever I see the term Big Data,” Woosely said. “It’s becoming this mythical thing, and that’s always scary.”

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