Big Data Case Studies with Proven Results

Big Data Case Studies: Coursera

Coursera provides education from leading universities around the world delivered over the internet. The instruction is handled through data streaming videos. Coursera tracks how its students watch those courses. Students might “rewind” to watch a section a second time. Or they might fast forward – skipping stuff they think they already know. Or they might go over the same course several times. Or they might just quit and walk away. Whatever they do, Coursera tracks it on a student-by-student basis. The company learns from this experience. It learns what works and what doesn’t. Occasionally it throws in a pop-quiz to see how well the students are learning. But there’s another reason, too. The company wants to see how well it’s doing. It’s a kind of self-evaluation. When the course designers realize that the learning process is not going as they had expected, they can go back and rework their material based on real-world feedback.

Big Data Case Studies: Arizona State University

Arizona State University, like many universities across the country, has its fair share of freshman students who are genuinely challenged in mathematics. One third of their freshman classes earned less than a C in math. Interestingly, this one score has been a reliable indicator of whether students would eventually graduate and collect their degrees – or drop out. To deal with this, ASU worked with Knewton apply its adaptive learning techniques. In just two years – from 2009 to 2011 — the pass rate in this course jumped from 64% to 75% at the same time the dropout rates fell by 50%.

Big Data Case Studies: West Virginia University

Simon Diaz, a professor at West Virginia University, was very curious why so many students who enrolled in online classes dropped out. One of the key rationales for providing online classes with streaming video at times convenient for the students was that the students wouldn’t feel shackled to a schedule that was incompatible with the daily realities of their lives. Using Big Data analytics, he looked at 33 variables for more than one million students. These variables included everything you would expect like age and gender to things you wouldn’t expect like military service and class size. What he discovered had never been obvious to anyone else before. The more classes students took at any one time, the more likely they were to drop out. Simply by reducing the number of courses students enrolled in at any one time would increase retention rates. But financial grants to students require those students to take a minimum number of courses. In other words, public policy was at odds with good educational practice – a conundrum that no one had discovered before based on a policy that had probably never been thought through with any empirical evidence. Another win for Big Data in Education.

Big Data Case Studies: Kent State

Kent State uses analytics to track student activity and project the likelihood of success. It tracks students over a ten-year time period collecting data about their majors, classes, demographics and other factors. Their system highlights the students at risk with red, yellow, green indicators. The reports help advisors focus their efforts on problem areas. Steven Antalvari, Kent State’s director of academic engagement and degree completion, said, “This data has helped us peel away certain layers faster, allowing us to spend the bulk of our time together working on the student’s purpose, goals, and career development.”

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