Big Data in Education?

This blogpost is about how big data is relevant to the field of education. Which ways of applications are there in educational settings?

Big Data in Education – Learning Analytics

As teaching and learning are not only happening offline but also online, and learning management systems are becoming more and more popular, also more data is collected accordingly. This data could be used to facilitate the learning process, but first it needs analysis. A process of data mining is required and in the educational sphere it is often referred to as “learning analytics” or “educational data mining”.


In March 2017, I participated at a partner meeting of the ATS2020 project in Zagreb, which was, among other important issues, also focusing on learning analytics.  Riina Vuorikari, researcher and part of the Information Society Unit of the European Commission’s in-house science service JRC-IPTS, presented the report on “Research Evidence on the Use of Learning Analytics”

Riina underlined, that learning analytics are supplier-driven at the moment. For developing a useful learning analytics application for education, it is necessary to consider the demand of teachers and learners. Riina presented what kind of learning analytics solutions are applied in education in the EU.

There is still little evidence about the impact of learning analytics on the learning process. It needs actionable data, which is not only descriptive, but also gives suggestions to improve the individual learning pathway. At this point it is also worthwhile to mention, that learning analytics have great potential for individualized learning.

Why Learning Analytics?

In the end, it is important to enable students to understand their own learning statistics and to reflect on it. They should be able to use their learning analytics to be more aware about their learning pathways and how to improve them. This is a part of digital competence. It is not enough that the learning management system is taking over all these task of giving meaning to the learning analytics data. The learner needs a critical mind and it is the teacher’s duty to provide advice and help the students to develop it.

During the ATS2020 partner meeting it was agreed that badges could be a way to visualize learning analytics, especially for early learners. It needs time to develop the competence to make sense out of data, to understand data visualizations and to interpret them in terms of one’s own learning pathway. This is an aspect, teachers need to keep in mind, not only for facilitating the development of the learners’ meta-cognitive competences, but also to get them acquainted with the world of big data and data mining in general.

What do you think about learning analytics in education? Write a comment below 🙂

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3 Responses

  1. Sabine says:

    I do very mich like the idea that data is used by the students themselves as part of their digital competence and learning process – instead of only being used by companies and service providers for tailored offers.

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