Nearly everyone’s familiar with a GPA, the classic data framework for most students, teachers, and administrators. But few would argue — even if they have 4.0s or higher — that as data, a grade point average oversimplifies the student-teacher experience, and arguably the value of education itself.

Big Data and online education might upend this dynamic, however. While higher education analytics are still in the early days, the promise of a much more complete, even real-time, picture of how curriculum, faculty, and students actually perform together is compelling.

At HotChalk, we and our university partners work every day to refine how, when, and where to use data analytics. That’s why we were interested to see the findings in the U.K.’s Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) fourth inquiry report, “From Bricks to Clicks — The Potential of Data and Analytics in Higher Education” in late January.

The HEC looked at the current data landscape across U.K. higher education institutions, reviewing data collections, learning analytics — the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of data about students to understand and optimize learning and learning environments —  and the current barriers to better data management and analytics. And although the U.K. education market has many differences from that in the United States, some findings clearly have implications here:

  • Learning analytics have enormous potential to improve the student university experience by allowing the institution to provide targeted, personalized support and assistance to each student.
  • Learning analytics have consistently spurred the following positive outcomes:
    • Increased retention
    • Improved feedback provided to students
    • More accurate attendance data
    • Enhanced teaching and learning
  • Institutional use of advanced analytics systems will increase over the next three to five years, leading to a more complete and powerful portrait of the student and, ultimately, near instantaneous, personalized information and resources that fit into students’ daily lives.

At HotChalk, we see the findings of this study reflected in our day-to-day work with our university partners. Their efforts to employ data analytics for the students’ benefit have led to an industry-leading 80 percent on-time graduation rate within two years.

While our partner institutions are focused on student-centric data analytics, we work in the background to ensure that the teachers are equally empowered to teach as the students are to learn. It’s teamwork at its best.

And while the GPA isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s nice to know that data’s evolving with the times — from the idea of an “average” as representing an individual student, to a much more complete picture that can actually help people learn.

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