Big Data for Education: Big Data has become an intrinsic part of our society on a fundamental level. According to published reports, 97.2% of global organizations are investing in Big Data, with 95% citing unstructured data as a culprit for financial business failure. A point of contention in regards to Big Data lies in education and the morality of allowing young minds to access vast repositories of information.
While the technology is capable of a positive impact on their personal and professional development, it also presents teachers and government institutions with noteworthy obstacles. Based on an Education Week survey, only 37% of teachers expressed that their districts offer any sort of education on data analytics. Let’s take a look at the perks of integrating Big Data into schools as well as the challenges such a step would entail in 2021.
Benefit #1: Customizable Learning Experience
Whether it’s elementary, high school or academic learning, students often come across subjects, topics and projects they don’t relate to. Add to that the fact that most schools’ curriculums are strictly curated and offer no room for customization and the problem becomes obvious. Enabling students to access Big Data technologies during class and teaching them how to do autonomous research can be a great leap forward for education. Students with access to customizable learning and the freedom to pursue their academic goals as individuals will teach them how to make more informed decisions. Subsequently, it will enable them to pursue IT and data analytics careers after graduation with more vigour and interest than older generations ever could.
Obstacle #1: Governmental & Institutional Approval
While private schools and institutions may be able to push for Big Data more liberally, governmental approval is notorious in its conservatism and inefficacy. Public schools and universities would have a much harder time implementing new Big Data technology such as specialized student software than their private counterparts. There is also the question of decentralized access to Big Data given how widespread smartphone device use has become with today’s youth. This can cause issues for the technology’s potential in education in 2021, given that individual countries and their ministries would need to approve of it. While the process can begin in 2021, we would be hard-pressed to see any major implementation of Big Data at a larger scale this year.
Benefit #2: Speed & Accuracy of Data Access
Allowing students to access data repositories with up-to-date information on different fields, research papers and other happenings in academia is an astonishing step forward. Whether students are partially interested in a topic or want to dig deep into a specific niche, Big Data would allow them to do so. In practice, this would lead to international collaboration between individual universities or even governmental bodies in hopes of enhancing the experience of both countries’ students. The large quantities of data would naturally lead to an expansion of data analytics courses and students’ interests in the field. Given how accessible digital devices have become over the years, students would be able to easily access these data repositories through laptops, tablets or smartphones.
Obstacle #2: Data Privacy Concerns
Allowing thousands of students’ access to Big Data technology raises some valid concern over their data privacy. Specifically, how can we guarantee that their private information, information related to their home addresses and families will be kept safe? Given the sheer volume of data, these platforms would contain, data curators and IT experts would have to be involved in maintaining the platforms’ infrastructure. However, IT companies which would be in charge of safekeeping user data would inherently have access to it themselves, leading to further moral questions. While we have been accustomed to social media such as Facebook and Twitter using our data for marketing purposes, should we compromise privacy for knowledge?
Benefit #3: Lowered Dropout Rates
Unfortunately, many students abandon their initial high schools or universities due to a lack of identification or passion for their subject matters. Big Data is inherently a versatile technology which allows its users to adapt it to their needs. Implementing such a technology in academia would allow students to dig deep and find various niches and specialization within their fields. As a result, this would lead to lower dropout rates and ensure that more students finish their formal education successfully.
Frustration with academic projects such as abundant research papers, essays and presentations can lead to physical and emotional burnouts. With Big Data, students would save time and effort in writing their papers and citations given how abundant their access to global data would become.
Obstacle #3: Monetary Cost of Implementation
Big Data is not high on the list of priorities for many educational institutions out there. While universities which focus on IT and data analytics already have some form of Big Data technology in place, elementary and high schools are lacking. This can put a wrench in implementing Big Data into public schools due to the fact that more pressing expenses are already on the docket. Some hope remains in the form of angel investors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or Elon Musk who would invest in education. However, that is only a speculation given the current global crisis we are undergoing, pushing Big Data in education even further down the expense list. Only time will tell whether Big Data will meet increased interest by government bodies in charge of allocating financial resources to educational institutions.
Weighing the Big Data Scales (Conclusion)
The implications of using Big Data in education are two-fold, presenting lawmakers and universities with both benefits and obstacles to consider before committing to it. As we move into 2021, technology related to Big Data is bound to drop in price and raise the possibility of its integration into academia. Only time will tell how willing people will be when it comes to piloting such game-changing technology into currently-rigid formal education.
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