Ecommerce companies like Amazon apply predictive analytics on data and use a recommendation engine to guess what to offer you next.

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Emergency communication companies like RapidSOS apply predictive analytics to data and transform disaster response into disaster prevention.

Can those models work for education, too?

Teachers and analytics: Close, but not quite there yet

For decades, students generated data in chunks, every time they handed in a test or a history assignment. But with digital tools in the hands of both teachers and students, data about education now pours in constantly, as it does in the scenarios I gave above. Even from standardized testing alone, the flow of data to schools and administrators is huge and constant while the accuracy and the sources are mixed.

Consider a classroom teacher who wants to improve the performance of lagging students. She pulls test results into a spreadsheet and studies them for a bit. Within 15 minutes, she realizes that if she can regroup and correlate them with other sets of data on her students, she can make much more effective use of all the data.

Then the bell rings.

Especially in K-12 schools, the quantity of data on student performance has been gradually increasing. However, data analysis tools in education have not been up to the task of quickly answering the most compelling questions:

  • Which practices, good and bad, affect student learning and success?
  • In which areas do we need to transform curriculum?
  • What should we do to help students thrive?
  • What learning style suits this student best?
  • Are our students on track to achieve grade-level goals?

Reading, writing, ‘rithmetic . . . and the learning analytics to measure them

Learning analytics is emerging as a discipline for education to address these topics. By incorporating the same kind of technology used in ecommerce and emergency communication, learning analytics can help districts and schools pull useful conclusions out of the mountains of data that the education process generates.

Affluent districts have set up teams of data scientists to teach new administrators to apply learning analytics and get the most from their data. It may seem like an expensive, tangential investment, but there’s no doubt that the answers to their questions lie somewhere in the data, if they can analyze it properly. Learning analytics allows them to better use the funds they have and increase the efficacy of education.

Learning analytics in K-12 education

To describe learning analytics, we’ve put together a report with THE Journal, called Game Changer: How Predictive Analytics is Transforming K-12 Education. It covers the foremost topics in how schools and districts are using analytics to improve the quality of education for low-end students, high-end students and those in between.


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