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Analytics is slowly revolutionizing higher education

Paul Newman Archive

Big data is still a relatively new technology, but in just a few short years, it's already formed a symbiotic relationship with higher education. Colleges and universities are making an effort to emphasize data analysis, and both sides are clearly benefiting. The data movement is gaining thousands of qualified professionals each spring, and the schools are making numerous improvements by ushering in their own data-driven analyses internally.

Michael Rappa, executive director of the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State, is one innovator who's led this trend in higher ed?ucation. When Rappa first proposed an analytics major in 1999, his idea fell on deaf ears. But, according to Information Week, he's gradually built up support for his steadfast belief in analytics, and his ideas now have mainstream appeal.

"It's been a great success," Rappa said of the analytics program. "Today our students are, as a group, the university's most sought-after and highest paid graduates, on a scale comparable to the best universities in the country."

Economic forces in higher ed?ucation
Rappa pointed out that due to the rising costs of higher education, it's vital that big data plays a role in decreasing the financial strain of college. Rising tuition costs and overwhelming student loan debts are just two of the many problems facing today's students and graduates.

Big data can help, analyzing the finances of students nationwide and honing in on their financial strengths and weaknesses. Colleges only have a finite amount of money they can use to aid their students, but luckily, data analysis can be used to isolate the best ways to spend it.

The "bigness" of big data
Rappa sees a notable misconception when it comes to the analytics movement, he pointed out in his interview with Information Week.

"What's most interesting about big data isn't its 'bigness,' he said. "I'm more interested in how data from disparate sources are being tied together in creative and useful ways that yield interesting new insights. I am also interested in how data can be used quickly - in real time, when possible - to make decisions on the fly."

Sheer volume isn't the only reason why higher education has benefited so much from implementing data. The growth of analytical thinking and the rise in data quality are both significant factors as well.

Analytics is still a young, growing field. The vibrant relationship between data scientists and university administrators will help the technology evolve and reach its full potential.