Data Mining in Schools?

September 3rd, 2012 No Comments Other

Data Mining Chart

Data mining, as the name implies, is the act of obtaining, searching, and assimilating information to analyze it for various purposes. It has been used in everything from market research, to preventing potential terrorist attacks. In layman’s terms, it essentially uses and examines large pools of information to find correlations, and to establish patterns and likelihoods of behavior.

Old patterns can provide new insights

This thinking has led data mining to be used in academia.

Big Data software is believed to have a crystal- ball-like ability to predict and predetermine how well students will fare at certain subject matters and career-oriented paths. It uses variables like interests, online activities, historical data, and test scores to recommend courses and keep students on a progressive path.

Big Data, theoretically speaking, can take the guess work out of which classes will lead to fewer drop outs , fewer “false starts” and less trial and error. Which in many cases can affect school funding as well.

However, its application has had mixed results in some instances. In the New York Times, a recent article shares how Rio Salado College used it to enhance student success, but due to technical glitches, the results were skewed and inaccurate over a given period of time.

Obviously the software can have advantages and disadvantages.

Though it provides opportunities for students to do well, based upon prior strengths, history and performance records, there is certainly something to be said for broadening one’s horizons even through courses that may be potentially challenging, and which students may not pass with “flying colors.”

Failure too can be a great teacher.

Check out our Learning Analytics infographic if you are interested in finding out more about data mining.

Image by Kevin Dooley


Saga Briggs is an author at InformED. You can follow her on Twitter@sagamilena or read more of her writing here.

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