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These Six EdTech Ventures Are Deploying Big Data To Improve Digital Business Education

Harvard Business School start-up latest to harness analytics

Mon Feb 22 2016

A Harvard Business School MBA is launching an edtech venture that will utilize big data analytics to improve students’ online learning.

Ashwin Damera has teamed up with MIT Sloan School of Management, Columbia Business School, and Tuck School of Business to bring their world-leading content further into the digital realm.

The Emeritus Institute of Management is the latest in a long line of start-ups biting into the rapidly growing online education market — expected to reach $107 billion last year, according to Docebo.

Many are utilizing analytics to improve both teaching and learning. The crunching of data, along with a focus on virtual communication and teams, and on the skills needed for managing in the digital economy, are what sets the Emeritus Institute apart, Ashwin said.

“A big difference is that we have a cohort-based approach. It’s not self-paced [learning]. They [students] begin and finish together,” said the former Citi banker who also founded Travelguru, India’s leading online hotel booking portal.

Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, which has three million users, said there is huge potential to use big data to improve online learning — a view shared by most online learning groups.

“Data is an amazing resource for teachers, who glean detailed feedback on how learners are processing information,” said Julia Stiglitz, director of business development at Mooc platform Coursera, which has nearly 18 million users.

Edx, the digital platform founded by Harvard and MIT, is researching how big data can improve the way instructors teach their online courses.

“Researchers hope to shed light on how learners access information and master materials,” said Nancy Moss, edX’s director of communications, by assessing data on everything from mouse clicks to time spent on tasks.

Oliver Cameron, VP of engineering at Udacity, said that with analytics, teachers can continuously help students make 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 said.

Mike Feerick, CEO and founder of online learning company ALISON, added: “There is huge potential for data to improve online learning.”

For business education, growing time and cost pressures are pushing managers to online learning providers, which offer courses often at a fraction of the cost of an MBA.

About 5.8 million students were enrolled in at least one distance learning course in 2014, up 3.9% ​on the year before, according to the latest widely-tracked data from the Babson Survey Research Group.

“These days you could be working for LinkedIn in the Bay Area but be communicating with your key clients in China,” Emeritus Institute’s Ashwin said.

Its one-year diploma programs cost around $12,500, and “purely online” diploma programs are about $4,000.

Emeritus Institute is targeting working professionals. The majority of the 70 students signed up so far are in full-time jobs, Ashwin said.

Emeritus Institute will not offer job placements. It’s targeting up to 2,000 enrolments at the end of its first year. Most of the students are expected to be non-US.