The biggest Big Data developments in higher education

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.…Read More

Lawsuit: Technology ‘destroyed’ blind student’s education

A federal lawsuit filed by a blind Miami University student accuses the university of using technology that presents a barrier to her education.

lawsuitJunior Aleeha Dudley, of New Paris, says course materials are inaccessible to her text-to-speech software and she hasn’t received material in Braille or other tactile forms she can use without help to offset her lack of sight.

The lawsuit, filed last week, says Miami failed to provide equal access in violation of federal law.

Dudley, who wants to go veterinary school, said her hopes of being admitted to a graduate program have been “jeopardized, if not destroyed,” because of lackluster grades she blames on barriers to completing coursework.…Read More

Will ed-tech have a role in the White House’s college access push?

President Obama invited nearly 150 university, nonprofit, and business leaders to the White House Jan. 16 for a summit devoted to finding ways of improving college access to low-income students.

white-house-educationThose in attendance were required to make specific commitments to increase college opportunity — and education technology such as data analytics, online learning, and mobile devices are key factors in many of those pledges.

“Today only 30 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school and, far worse, by their mid-20s only 9 percent earn a bachelor’s degree,” Obama said. “So if we as a nation can expand opportunity and reach out to those young people and help them not just go to college but graduate from college or university, it could have a transformative effect.”

The summit largely stayed away from any discussion of Obama’s controversial college rating system, and instead focused on a series of panel and group discussions about individual efforts to address enrollment and retention.…Read More

Education’s ‘dirty secret’: Wikipedia in the classroom

Wikipedia is still not referred to as a reliable source for use in the classroom by many college and university professors – even as professionals in other fields, like medicine, are learning to trust the online encyclopedia.

Wikipedia has about the same number of errors as Encyclopedia Britannica, according to research.

An estimated 70 percent of physicians admit to using Wikipedia for clinical decisions, according to the International Journal of Medical Informatics. Some estimates place that figure even higher, at 90 percent.

But in a recent webcast sponsored by plagiarism-prevention service Turnitin, an informal poll of the participants revealed that half of those instructors say they do not allow students to cite or even use Wikipedia in their courses.

Jake Orlowitz, a Wikimedia Foundation grantee and Wikipedia administrator, said he thinks more educators use the site than they often admit, due to an academic stigma the site has carried for more than a decade.…Read More

Some colleges ‘retreat’ from online learning

Higher education’s online learning landscape is increasingly polarized, with colleges and universities choosing divergent paths for how to proceed with the nontraditional medium.

Nine in 10 respondents said every student will take at least one online course by 2018.

Campuses that have long been invested in web-based courses are continuing their focus on online classes while others have chosen to “retreat” from the courses, according to the 2013 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group, a comprehensive annual look at online education’s proliferation.

The percentage of Babson survey respondents — academic officers of all sorts — who pegged online learning as a key part of their institutions’ long-term strategy fell from 69.1 percent in 2012 to 65.9 percent last year.

That plummeting percentage, according to the report, is in large part thanks to schools that have not launched far-reaching online offerings, and now don’t plan to in the coming years.…Read More

The power of people in Big Data

Washington, D.C. — 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.

big-data“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.”

The event, now in its second year, attracted more than 600 educators, researchers, and data analysts to the Ronald Reagan Building on Jan. 15. It served as both a showcase for a variety of data-focused companies and a platform for the U.S. Department of Education to trumpet the Obama administration’s effort to make governmental data open to the public.

If used to its full potential, this “open data” could add as much as $5 trillion per year to the world’s economy, and, according to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, the education sector stands to benefit from that surge more than any other.…Read More

Universities: Key cogs in the cybersecurity fight

Washington, D.C. — More than 3 million higher education records were compromised in more than 50 cybersecurity breaches in the past year. The problem doesn’t end where the campus does, however.

cybersecurityData breaches across all sectors doubled in 2013. Half of those attacks were directed at the energy sector. There were 300 denial-of-service attacks targeting financial institutions, including the 15 largest banks in the country.

While it is a serious concern that universities aren’t taking lightly, there are certainly other sectors that are under greater threat than education. But as the training grounds for future generations of cybersecurity experts, colleges and universities are proving to be a key link in the chain of defense.

That’s the idea behind the new National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College.…Read More

Using zombies to lure MOOC newbies

That the most well-known massive open online course (MOOC) platforms are leveraging popular culture — including zombies — to stir up interest in their experimental classes is hardly a secret.

Still, the question has lingered: Will it work?

One in 10 MOOC students had already enrolled in 1-3 massive courses.

Instructure’s much-ballyhooed MOOC on the cable show, “The Walking Dead,” seemed to do the trick. More than 7,000 of the 12,000 students (83.6 percent) who responded to a course survey said they had never taken a MOOC before enrolling in the zombie-themed offering from Instructure.

One in 10 “Walking Dead” MOOC students had taken 1-3 MOOCs, and 5 percent of students had enrolled in more than three MOOCs, according to the survey results.…Read More

eLearning caucus has ‘long way to go’ in educating Congress

Congressional representatives lacked such basic knowledge of online education in 2011 that many thought distance learning was still primarily done through correspondence classes, according to a survey conducted that year.

congress-elearning-educationShortly after that poll’s results were released by a group of online colleges called the Presidents’ Forum, two members of congress formed an eLearning caucus to educate policy makers. Eighteen months since its official launch, the members of the caucus may still have their work cut out for them.

“We’ve come a ways since then,” said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who created the caucus with Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D. “More members have direct experience. Awareness is increasing. But we certainly still have a long way to go.”

Since its creation, the caucus has yet to push for any policy decisions, though members of the group pursue their own policy goals concerning education.…Read More