Will Big Data ‘equalize’ education?

By 2018, “the classroom will learn you,” IBM researchers predicted in their annual list of five innovations that will occur in the next half-decade, some with a major impact on education.

Educational best practices may get a boost from data analytics.

The researchers said a boom in data-driven digital resources shouldn’t have professors worried, however. It’s not about replacing instructors, said Chalapathy Neti, director of Education Transformation at IBM Research, but making classrooms more equal across the board.

Think of it as institutions buying a “best educator in a box,” Neti said.

“It’s a tool that helps educators,” he said. “It’s equalizing. There are educators who are really good at their jobs that come up with their own mechanisms and come up with incredible results. What we’re trying do is box that up so everyone can become as good as the best teacher.”

Specifically, IBM is experimenting with using digital tools that will glean information from the students using those tool to learn.

At Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest school system in Georgia, IBM is using Big Data and learning analytics to track the learning speed, competencies, and styles of the system’s students.

The project, called Personalized Education Through Analytics on Learning Systems, or PETALS, combines this individual information with data collected over the last decade from 200,000 anonymous students.

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