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Education CIOs can glean insights from working with more data

Richard Jones Archive

Among all areas, both public and private, where gathering and analyzing big data can have a galvanizing effect, education is perhaps the one with the most untapped potential. Especially at the college and university level, school administrators have a great deal of information at their disposal, and they can use it to make significant discoveries that will help them improve.

Information Week recently delved into the possibility of higher education making more out of big data. Schools have a lot of information on each student, thanks to applications for admission and financial aid. If they take it and perform as much analysis as possible, they can find a lot of trends that will help them make better decisions about how to educate students. Joy Hughes, chief information officer at George Mason University, explained the potential for more data in education.

Hughes noted that while CIOs in education might initially be hesitant about getting involved with big data, they should know that the technology is more than just a passing fad. When data collection is paired with sophisticated predictive analytics, it has the ability to transform education the same way it's revolutionized business.

Is there really transformative power in education big data, as Hughes argues? There are a few reasons to believe so.

Smarter budgeting
Colleges can use data to make determinations about the way they spend their money. Are they misallocating resources by spending too much on paying one professor, revamping one department or renovating one building? By analyzing more data, administrators can find inefficiencies and correct them.

Better admissions standards
How do colleges make decisions about accepting and declining students' applications? Is it based primarily on academic transcripts, test scores, extracurricular resumes, essays or recommendations? Data can show trends about which areas are the best predictors of academic success.

Fairer financial aid
Colleges have limited budgets for financial aid. Data analysis can help them determine which students need help the most. Financial aid offices should look to get as many qualified students as possible to enroll at schools and stay there.

Higher graduation rates
Myriad factors affect whether a student graduates. Some are educational, while others are financial. There are also personal life crises that can play a role. Colleges can analyze data and find out what keeps students in school and on track to graduate.

Big data has applications everywhere, but in education, CIOs have yet to fully explore its potential. They can certainly do more.