Smart campuses: how big data will transform higher education


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Reform launches its latest report, Smart campuses: how big data will transform higher education, in partnership with Accenture, and explores how learning analytics can be utilised by universities.

Despite the continuing expansion of higher education, universities face a number of serious challenges. The typical student demographic is shrinking, Brexit has created financial uncertainty and the implementation of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) means that institutions failing to “wipe out mediocre teaching and drive up student engagement” could face decreased funding.

With the incentives to improve greater than ever, under-pressure universities should turn to learning analytics. By accessing data on student behaviour and matching it with outcomes, models identifying students at risk of dropping out have been developed, some with an accuracy of 90 per cent; others can even predict intermediate outcomes and recommend resources.

If used to its full potential, learning analytics is an invaluable tool. For universities, it provides a chance to deliver timely and personalised support. Early adopters have observed positive outcomes, including increased retention rates and high student satisfaction.

For the members of the TEF panel, the information revealed by learning analytics can also help determine whether teaching really does engage students – do they access resources, participate in forum discussions and show other signs of genuine participation?

Invariably, there will be disagreements on how and to what extent learning analytics should be implemented. But future generations going to university will be used to highly personalised performance feedback, leaving universities with not much choice other than to embrace 21st century technology.

Watch Emilie Sundorph give an overview of the event in our video:

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