Big Data has become a focal point for college IT departments.

The storing, management, and security of Big Data is of paramount importance to colleges and universities, with many schools using the reams of student data to stem dropout rates and identify at-risk students, among other uses.

Big Data extends well beyond the walls of the Ivory Tower. Every day, another 2.5 quintillion bytes of online information is created. This data can be used to find patterns in student learning and help quickly diagnose patients and track consumer trends.

In fact, researchers in the University of California system recently created a platform to make sense of all of this information without a way to store and analyze it. By using large, “shared-nothing” computing clusters – a system where each computer node is self-sufficient and not relying on one other – the Big Data platform can better process the large volume of data.

Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of Knewton, an adaptive learning company, released a list July 18 of five types of Big Data that matter most in education, providing a summary of how this sort of data is critical to the future of higher education.

“Education has always had the capacity to produce a tremendous amount of data, more than maybe any other industry,” Ferreira wrote. “First, academic study requires many hours of schoolwork and homework, 5+ days per week, for years. These extended interactions with materials produce a huge quantity of information. Second, education content is tailor-made for big data, generating cascade effects of insights thanks to the high correlation between concepts.”

Here’s his list of the five kinds of Big Data that matter the most.

1) Identity Data: Identifying who students are, and whether their allowed to use a certain application. This kind of data is also used to determine what administrative rights a person might have on campus, along with their socioeconomic status.

2) User Interaction Data: This includes data like engagement metrics, click rate, page views, and bounce rate. “These metrics have long been the cornerstone of internet optimization for consumer web companies, which use them to improve user experience and retention. This is the easiest to collect of the data sets that affect student outcomes. Everyone who creates an online app can and should get this for themselves,” Ferreira wrote.

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