Jen Q. Public: Personalizing the learning experience with analytics

[Once upon a time there lived a woman in a peculiar town. A place where analytics is used to tackle tough problems. Read on to learn more about Jen and her town. Her other diary entries can be found at]


June 4, 7:23 p.m.

Dear diary:

I can still remember the days when everyone turned their noses up at online degrees. I may be dating myself with that idea, but thankfully this is just my diary. Today I look at my daughter doing research and even writing papers on her phone. She even ignores my calls when she is in the middle of doing homework on her phone, and I think, “Who does that?” Generation Z, that’s who.

I expressed my concern to a professor, and she just shook her head and said, “students these days sure are different.” In its analysis of US Census Bureau data, the Pew Research Center reported, “More than one in three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18–34 in 2015), and this year they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce.”

Millennials also fill colleges and universities worldwide. I have nothing but admiration for our educators today. A classroom full of Millennials can certainly be more than a handful. Factor in nontraditional students, and I can’t help but wonder how educators are structuring their classes and creating the right learning environments for such a diverse student body.

Without even factoring in the generation gaps, students learn differently. However add that generation gap to the equation, and learning becomes a bit more complex. A recent Pace Events blog post indicated that “Millennials have the propensity to digest information in bite-sized portions.” Nontraditional students may actually read the lecture material and the textbook. How then do we personalize the learning experience for each student?

In his recent Inside Higher Ed essay, “Education’s Moment of Truth,” Frederick Singer, chief executive officer (CEO) at Echo360, discusses how professors can seize the moment to use data to help improve learning. He also offers a great analogy that likens the growing use of big data and analytics in education to their application in retail. “The reality is that the lecture, like the retail experience, has and will continue to evolve to meet the new demands of 21st-century users…. And smart institutions are combining real-time engagement data with historic information to spot challenges early and change the academic trajectory for students.”

While having coffee with one of my colleagues Wednesday, he mentioned that “through data and analytics, educational institutions can track enormous amounts of learning data.” Then, by applying deep analytics to the learning data, we can understand more clearly how a student learns. The degree to which education transforms as increasing numbers of schools use data to personalize the student learning experience will be interesting to observe.

Learn more about the use of analytics in education in the white paper Analytics for Achievement.

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