August 1st, 2011
Welcome to this week’s Biweekly Research Update. If you want more context for this research, take a look at our Education and Technology Trends for 2011. You may also be interested in our Weekly Research Index, or you can follow our live, daily research on our Current News page.
(Click here to see a simple listing of today’s suggested reading)
This week we’re kicking off our new weekly research segment on Big Data and Education. We will begin the series with a brief overview on Big Data, what it is, and how it affects both education and educational publishing in the U.S.
By way of definition, Big Data is a term used to denote “data sets whose size is beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time.” With the growth of Web-based and mobile technologies, the data we can mine effectively as well as the types of information we can process from that data are evolving at startling rates. In its report on Big Data released in May, McKinsey Global Institute estimated that the amount of data increase globally is roughly 40%. In addition:
MGI estimates that enterprises globally stored more than 7 exabytes of new data on disk drives in 2010, while consumers stores more than 6 exabytes of new data on devices such as PCs and notebooks. One exabyte of data is the equivalent of more than 4,000 times the information stored in the US Library of Congress (approximately 235 terabytes in April 2011).
In the US, Education weighs in as the tenth largest data sector, with approximately 267 petabytes of information being stored and managed.
The traditional big data opportunities in education revolve around scientific research, library resources, and administrative information. In other words, education has historically concerned itself with mining static, structured, and slow-growing data stores that grow in calculable increments.
Looking forward, the opportunities in data management for education are evolving to include intensified efforts around student performance analytics and smart content (adaptive, just-in-time learning). And, while initial efforts in these areas have begun with the manipulation of controlled data sets via LMS and SIS platforms, the real possibilities lie in connecting, storing, and mining the unstructured and structured data to which institutions have access.
In education, Big Data trends for the future can be seen in the following transitions and/or conflicts:
Eventually, these trends will translate into smarter campuses, more connected learning ecosystems, and real-time intelligence about learners and their collective/connected environments. Effectively, learning institutions will become global information nodes tasked with harnessing and mining petabytes of diverse and unstructured data with the goal of identifying and harvesting the best connective learning paths for students.
This will require new approaches to data management, new software tools, and new skill sets. It will also open the door to new opportunities for data service providers, content/information publishers, and software companies.
Each week, I will be exploring different opportunities and technologies related to Big Data in education, and I will do my best to help us all navigate the important questions. Here are just a few that we’ll be addressing int he coming weeks.
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