Colleges and universities, despite persistent skepticism in some circles, are looking toward Big Data to improve education, reduce costs, bolster efficiency, increase degree completion, and drive critical decisions on campus.

educationThere’s no arguing that data analytics has seized the attention of administrators, technologists, and educators alike, as reflected in massive data-related investments seen over the past year.

Big Data, it seems, is here to stay in higher education, even if it’s actually small or medium-sized data.

eCampus News assistant editor Jake New, who recently conducted exhaustive research into how universities are leveraging data, is going to be available for an hour-long Twitter chat from 7-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

New, author of eCampus News’ popular “Higher education’s Big (Data) Bang” series, will field myriad questions from our readers about how data analytics is changing higher education, and why so many campuses have put trust — and resources — in the promise of Big Data.

Be sure to join New, who can be found on Twitter @eCN_Jake. Don’t forget to use the Twitter hash tag #eCNBigData.

Here’s a rundown of five of the most important Big Data developments, as covered on eCampus News.

1. The power of people in Big Data

For all the focus on the power of data at the 2014 White House Education Datapalooza, there seemed to be just as much talk about people. “Data doesn’t do anything,” said Nick Sinai, the deputy chief technology officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Data is only worth something if you apply it.”

2. Universities brace for another year of security breaches

Records compromised by data breaches in higher education were already at a near all-time high that year, with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse reporting more than 2 million compromised. In 2013, the number was more than 3 million. Ten percent of all data breaches in the United States were in the education sector. As the Ponemon Institute and Symantec estimate the cost of education data at $142 per record, that’s a potential cost exceeding $425 million.

3. Higher education’s Big (Data) Bang: Part one

At a conference in October devoted to exploring the perks of Big Data in higher education, the event’s keynote speaker had a surprisingly contrarian take on the subject. “Big Data is bull—,” Harper Reed, the chief technology officer of President Obama’s 2012 campaign, said to an audience that included many campus IT officials hoping to learn more about Big Data’s benefits. Reed, who used the power of data to help Obama secure reelection, said the term is just a marketing tool meant to drive college and university IT officials toward expensive technologies for storing and analyzing data.

4. Higher education’s Big (Data) Bang: Part two

A university recently crunched all of the “Big Data” it had gathered on a course and made a surprising discovery. Out of the two professors who taught the course, one had significantly lower performing students. But this was a professor who had won several teaching awards and was well-respected by campus leaders. What was going on here, the researchers wondered as they sifted through all of the data points at their disposal.

5. Higher education’s Big (Data) Bang: Part three

The use of Big Data could unlock as much as $5 trillion in economic value a year, and it’s falling on colleges and universities to ensure such a boon happens. Higher education institutions in recent years have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in data research and tools. Some universities are putting up this money themselves, while others are relying on government and organization grants.

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