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How Five EdTech Start-Ups Are Using Big Data To Boost Business Education

Mooc platforms explore analytics with b-school partners

Wed Jan 20 2016

BusinessBecause
Education tech companies including Coursera, edX, Udacity and their b-school and university partners are delving deeper into big data analytics to improve teaching and student learning.

Simon Nelson, CEO of online learning company FutureLearn, says: “The potential is incredible — and we are just scratching the surface.”

A report to be published in January by the UK’s Higher Education Commission (HEC) envisages that big data will help identify risk of failure; give students instant feedback; and benchmark their performance against peers.

“Data is an amazing resource for teachers, who glean detailed feedback on how learners are processing information,” says Julia Stiglitz, director of business development at Coursera, the online learning site with 17 million users.

Coursera, which works with the b-schools IE, Yale and Duke Fuqua, offers a dashboard that gives teachers insight into when students are most likely to stop watching a video, and the percentage who answer assessment questions correctly the first time around.

“If only 10% of learners taking a quiz are answering correctly, teachers can evaluate how they are teaching this particular point, or if the wording of the question is ideal,” Julia says.

Edx, the digital course provider founded by Harvard and MIT, is researching how big data can help answer key online learning questions: which are the best ways to teach complex ideas online? And which parts of a course are best taught in-person?

“By carefully assessing course data, from mouse clicks to time spent on tasks to evaluating how students respond to various assessments, researchers hope to shed light on how learners access information and master materials,” says Nancy Moss, edX’s director of communications.

Oliver Cameron, VP of engineering and product at Udacity, says that rather than waiting for an end-of-semester survey to uncover an issue, instructors can continuously help students make data-driven improvements year-round.

“…..When the data is immediate, the incredible potential for online learning to adapt and improve based on student data becomes apparent,” he says.

At IESE Business School, an “omi-learning” approach sees the Spanish institution uses data to monitor each learner’s performance and personalize their tasks.

In a recent study the directors of IESE’s Learning Innovation Unit, Guiseppe Auricchio and Evgeny Kaganer, argue that with this approach, “professional development goes from being an aggregation of distinct activities to becoming a continuous journey, guided by data-driven insights”.

Use of data analytics can also provide useful information for online learners to upload to recruitment sites like LinkedIn, says the HEC report.

Providing careers services and certificates has been a focus for a number of Mooc, or massive open online course, developers. “We’re providing access to many learners who otherwise would not be able to further their career,” says Coursera’s Julia.

But there are ethical issues involved with gathering so much data on students. Edtech companies have been criticized for what some consider could become an intrusive level of surveillance.  

HEC recommends that institutions allow students the option of opting out of their data being collected.

Mike Feerick, CEO and founder of online learning company ALISON, says the company operates a “code of best practice” for its student data. “We take data privacy very seriously.” But he adds: “There is huge potential for data to improve online learning.”

Another way data could potentially help educators tailor learning is through using wearable technology, says the HEC report. 

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The use of wearable tech, like whizzy wristbands devised by Silicon Valley start-ups such as Fitbit, are already being deployed by the world’s top business schools.

NYU Stern MBA students have worked on short projects using Google Glass; at Harvard Business School, professors have worn Jawbone UP wristbands to measure their steps — a theory was levied that activity in lectures can affect how students take in information.

California’s UC-Berkeley Hass School teamed up with Intel to encourage entrepreneurs to develop wearable tech. HEC Paris, meanwhile, is testing Intel’s wearables to boost the performance of its executive students.

Michael Segalla, professor of management at HEC Paris, says the tie-up will “allow us to produce the most reliable data on the market”.

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All I could ever hope for is Duke University. That really epitomizes the "work hard, play hard" philosophy that elite colleges frequently pursue. Even though you'll have a lot of schooling to complete over the week, it's simple to keep focused because all of your friends are putting in similar amounts of effort. Many events taking place on and around campus on the weekends provide a great way to unwind. The combination of demanding academics and traditional college fun strikes the perfect balance.

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Living, eating, learning, and developing who you want to be as an adult are all fantastic at Duke. I participated in student athletics, and I couldn't have asked for a better interaction with the faculty and other students. I appreciate all of the help I get from the Duke community more than anything. Furthermore, the teachers take the time to get to know you, and the lectures are diverse and demanding (if you do the same). I'd give it a 10 out of 10.

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Beautiful School, Nice Classes

DU remains one the greatest and best universities that I have ever stepped in. The school is beautiful and neat. The classes are spacious and also very nice. I enjoyed attending my Lectures in those lecture halls. I also loved the Lecturers because of the good work they did. The university also has very good dorms that are given to students on first come first serve basis and they are affordable

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I received my B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Global Health with a minor in Chemistry from Duke University. I was able to grow as a student, scientist, and global health advocate with the help of my friends, professors, and other mentors I met along the way. A lot to learn if you look and ask, a great place to learn for those who want to learn.

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An amazing 2 years, with covid and everything else happening Duke has been a place of growth for me. The courses , classes were one of a kind, online and on campus. But the valuable lessons learned in the classes are irreplicable. The students are amazing here, so much diversity , I had no problem fitting in. The teachers are down right brilliant and so helpful. Don't be afraid to ask them anything. Graduated with my MBA with Duke and now my future awaits.

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Graduated with an MBA. The classes were very insightful and engaging. The staff are very easy to deal with. The teachers and students, are truly amazing people. Grateful to all the people I've met along the way at Duke. I've learnt a great deal that will help me in my future endeavors. The campus itself is a marvel, it is beautiful.

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I graduated with a masters degree in Religious Studies from Duke University. One thing I really liked about the university is its huge campus. It is spread in a large area with a lot of greenery and also have the facilities of reading rooms for single person also. My department building was very well taken care of. The library is immensely populated with books for all your needs. The faculty is very nice to students. The classes are equipped with latest technology to cater the needs of students. The University also provides room rentals for international students. They are very well maintained and priority is given to the International students for a comfortable stay there. There are weekly events conducted by the University as well as Student clubs for the entertainment of students. Anybody can take part in them and show their talents. I enjoyed my degree and I graduated in 2021 and was very happy that I had graduated from a reputed University.

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