Imagine what big data can do for online learning

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Big data has been eagerly embraced by the business world. Now it's time to look at how it can be used in education.

The term refers to the trails we leave behind every time we use a website. We're all familiar with sites such as Amazon suggesting that if we enjoyed one book, we might like another book on a similar topic. These recommendations are based on data collected from very large numbers of customers and as a rule work very well. It undoubtedly improves the shopping experience.

Until recently, such techniques could not have been used to improve the learning experience. Teaching in higher education has not typically handled thousands of students, but now we have massive open online courses (Moocs) – free courses that are open to all and aimed at an unlimited number of participants. Moocs often have six-figure cohorts, and students work through the same online activities.

Can we apply the principles we've learnt from business to online learning? By observing students' patterns of behaviour online, could we help them learn more effectively?

Possibly, but it's not that easy.

The whole article on The Guardian