Big data analytics seems to be the new thing in fashion when it comes to modern education. Even though very few understand well the concept of using large amounts of data sets to uncover patterns and take conclusions from them, classrooms are been invaded by computers, tablets, cameras, microphones, and other gadgets, from primary schools to universities.
As a consequence, teachers are having to adapt to a new demand that is coming from a high-tech professional world and the unique characteristics of Millennials and Generation Z. There is also a crescent need to stimulate and embrace diversity in the educational system, which could be better achieved by using the insights that big data analytics can provide.
Educational institutions would have their classrooms filled with cameras, microphones, and other gadgets capable of collecting data provided but everything that is done or said in that area. Classes would also be fully computer-based. All information gathered by the tech devices is then processed and analysed so find out the best ways to teach and support the students’ learning process.
The use of big data analytics will empower educators with the means to collect valuable data regarding the way that each student learn. This way they will be able to adapt their curriculum to general and specific needs so to achieve better results.
The amount of information collected might be too high to educators cope with and for them to adapt as fast as they should. The students and staff's privacy and the system security also are top concerns.
On the good news side, big data analytics will bring to the classrooms the possibility of creating and organising classes that will meet the needs of each student. The era of dumping concepts into student’s heads and then just asking them to reply back will be gone as teachers will be able to see what each student needs and to provide them with the correct resources.
Learning disabilities will be spotted sooner, and students will enjoy more flexibility in the classrooms compared to what happens in traditional education. And as the new generations are being born with a smartphone in their hands, they are likely to be happy to deal with more and more gadgets in school as well.
It is very easy to conclude that privacy and security will be top concerns of those trying to implement big data analytics in the educational system. With classrooms full of cameras and microphones, it is raised a major worry about what is going to be done with all information collected from them. Plus, when it comes to schools, these data will be coming from under-age students, whose future can be compromised by a breach of security.
Of course, schools will probably be backed up by contracts signed by parents allowing them to do implement big data analytics in their class. But parents will be signing it expecting that the data will be used for educational purposes only and that the level of security will be the best one available. And it doesn’t get any better when the discussion moves to the use of big data in higher education, as adults aren’t any happier to have hours of their life stored in someone’s else hands.
But everybody knows how much cost maintaining a security system running and updated can be, and it is yet to be discovered how schools will be able to fund it by themselves. One possibility is to count on financial support from private companies or from the government, which might again raise concerns about the possibility that these institutions could be interested in having access to the data collected themselves.
One of the expected consequences of the use of big data analytics in modern education is changes to the grading system. As teachers will understand better how their students learn and get their assignments and exams done, it might create the need to adapt the grading system so to make it more reasonable.
A teacher might realise, for example, that a specific question became impossible to be answered in the allowed amount of time, or that the sources available online were unreliable. Several educational tools are also based on collaboration, which makes more difficult to give grades based on black-or-white criteria only. The big question is what teachers will do when they find out that it was impossible to anybody to get an A.
With the amount of data that will be in their hands, teachers will have to prepare themselves to apply them later in the classroom. But the truth is that most of them have no idea of what to do with this kind of information. They are used to what they know, have their classes already organised, and many think that their methods work quite well.
Many teachers also have very little familiarity with technology and won’t have a clue about how to deal with the new demand. Plus, they are likely to feel even more uncomfortable than the students with cameras and microphones everywhere. That is to say that it will be necessary to support the teachers and prepare them before starting buying the required technology for big data analytics' implementation, or it will all go to waste in the end.
In order to make it work, the educational system will have to re-examine itself so to decide how they will manage big data analysis in schools and universities. It will also be necessary to discuss several ethical and practical concerns regarding its use and applicability.
While nobody is denying the advantages of using big data analytics, due to its complexity, this issue will have to be addressed not only by associations and other educational representations but also by the government itself. New policies will have to be written down so to provide educators with what they need to know in order to make the use of big data analysis a safe and enjoyable thing to everybody in the system.