What's going to happen with 'big data' this year?

2016 may be the 'jumping-off point for policies and practices that define higher education'

While politicians and higher education leaders hyped up big data last year, the industry's use of analytics will mature this year, Bridget Burns, the University Innovation Alliance's executive director, writes in Forbes.

"When we look back on 2016, we may very well see it as the jumping-off point for policies and practices that define higher education in the digital era," she says.

According to Burns, four major trends and developments will emerge.

From the Student Success blog
Top insights of 2015

1. 'Big data becomes useful'

Already, colleges and universities look to hire candidates with "predictive analytics" experience—beyond just the IT department. As these staffers integrate into their various departments, they will be able to use big data to improve course content delivery, affordability, and retention rates, Burns writes.

Georgia State University is an early example. The institution used data analytics and advising services to increase their graduation rate by 22 percentage points while simultaneously shrinking the gap between low-income or minority students and their peers.

2. 'Policymakers will take notice.' Big data will enable schools to prove their value and affordability to lawmakers, while the combination of student information and enrollment management systems will better inform policies surrounding low-income student completion initiatives.

Additionally, schools working with the Obama Administration's First in the World initiative should begin producing results on data-informed student advising.

States will also likely start rolling out "performance funding 2.0" in response to higher ed leaders using data to prove the value of investing in their institutions.

3. 'Data privacy and security concerns spike.' As more student information moves to the cloud as part of big data analysis, students will demonstrate increased concern about data privacy. As a result, businesses, school leaders, and state lawmakers must create new standards to clarify data management, collection, and security issues. "These new rules are a welcome sign that education technology and data [are] truly coming of age," Burns writes.

4. 'Collaboration is king.' Technology firms and universities will both need to work with competitors to help students—the biggest concern might become whether data can be shared across several platforms. But new tech business models and best practices for sharing and de-identifying data will emerge as solutions. "To impact outcomes at scale, universities will need to set aside competition and embrace collaboration," Burns writes (Burns, Forbes, 1/29).


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