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Big-DataBig Data can play a crucial role in deciding the core focus of the education sector in the country by providing pointed insights and charting an illustrious path of growth.Bhawna Satsangi digs out the scope of Big Data in education

Change is the only constant factor and that holds true for even in the way education is imparted and that is evident from the ICT initiatives being taken by the education ministry. There interest of using technology is increasing in the institutions and especially in the higher education. One such technology that is leveraging the education arena is Big Data which is helping to improve the performance of the students and raise teachers’ effectiveness, find out reasons for failure, drop outs and much more.

From an education perspective there is a change in a way education is imparted and there are multiple channels that have come in for a holistic approach in education. Today, there is better interaction happening through internet technology and these tools are also driving huge amount of content. With econtent coming in also brings up huge opportunity.

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“Technology has a big role to play in education and is important for developing world for an aspiring population and economic prosperity. Traditional education is struggling to provide quality education when it comes to teachers-there is a huge gap and challenge.

Technology can amplify and manage role of teachers. Big Data is a small part of technology and is a specialised area.It refers to fact that explosion of internet of mobile devices created volume of data everyday and this can be used to improve education system. This can help us to make use of scarce resources in most appropriate way to get maximum number of benefit,” explains Udai Singh, President, NIIT Limited.

From the education perspective,how education is being imparted is the area to look upon. Multiple channels have come in e-learning process. There is completely off classroom training programme, there is a better interaction happening through internet technology.It is a supplementary part of a revolution or using internet technologies to deliver a complete course. The moment improvement happen in content and e-content comes in, also gives huge opportunity.

“We need to find out the weakness of the students and analytics can actually evaluate the assignment given to the students based on the responses given by them. The teacher can evaluate how he has performed, how much he has understand, etc. So Big Data is away of implementing analytics that can help to improve the quality of education imparted,” essays Somenath Nag,Director, ISV and Enterprise Solutions,Alten Calsoft.

Value addition

Emphasising on the value addition that Big Data technology brings with it for identifying the problems and its solutions at school level, Santanu Paul, CEOand Managing Director, TalentSprint opines, “It is imperative that educational institutions start paying attention to both collection and analysis of data that has been collected over the past years. A big data analysis could help schools, educators and policy makers get a better handle of not just how to teach but how students would like learn and other related issues playing in the minds of educators – right from getting better attendance at low income group schools and controlling school dropout rates. Analysis of large data can give insights on students, their ability to learn as compared to many factors such as gender, socio-economic group, ethnicity,and even location and culture. This analysis could help create the right incentives for educators, students, parents and other stakeholders to develop the requisite skills in students.”

Market estimation

As the data we generate every micro second grows and accelerates at a rapid velocity, the requirement for making a business decision is shifting from hindsight-based decision making to a foresight-based approach. Companies are banking upon Big Data and analytics.According to an industry report by NASSCOM – in partnership with Blue-Ocean Market Intelligence, the analytics market in India could more than double from the current $1 billion to $2.3 billion by the end of 2017-18.

Technology and result oriented services are thought to be engines of growth across the industry. In education we are starved with data and are comfortable with the fact that we can be data starved but actually it is not possible to survive without data. It is important to have data that allows us to update, change in real time and that’s the power of Big Data. If we have enough data to use it we can actually make changes, recommendations,when it’s meaningful.

Educationists need Big Data to guide their decision making process. Utilisation of the data available, acquisition of analytic capacity to use the growing data, public demand for better evidence for programme impact will drive the increased use of Big Data to empower schools to make data-driven decisions.

Qualitative achievement

No doubt, that big data is driving innovations in education. Researchers too are focusing the connection between teacher quality and student achievement.As put by Shankar Murukutla,Sales Director, South Asia and India,MapR Technologies, “There are two methods to drive innovations and that teacher quality impact student achievement is consistent upgrading of skills like any knowledge base. More and more information keeps up to date. Secondly,the ability to centrally or regionally to study a vast number of students and figure out what is working and what not.Then there is another way particularly with computers, we can monitor the keystrokes and teacher can study their pattern and make out how they are learning. Through this activity teachers can take a corrective action.”

L. Ashok, Managing Director, Future net Technologies says,“Big data coupled with analytics will provide lot of insight in quality of teacher to students’ performance. For example this will also open avenues to do research and deliver lectures in multimedia depends on the type of students.”

There is a need to define a benchmark while giving training, refined teaching experience which only comes when a child is evaluated on the performance.Through innovative teaching teachers can improve students’ performance,identify the need of the student and develop the content accordingly.

“Even before we start using big data insights to improve teacher quality and there by student achievement, the primary challenge in India’s current educations cenario is the absence of data.Tracking teacher’s performance and background on various parameters and mapping them to student outcome on an ongoing basis can give deep insights in terms of impact of teaching style, expertise etc on the student performance.Data collection therefore needs to be the first order of business before we get to the level where we have enough data coming rapidly to label it as big data,” explains Paul.

He further sites with an example, we all know that there are high dropout rates among Indian students, especially in government schools. Do we acknowledge that there is also high absenteeism among teachers in these schools? What is the correlation between teacher absenteeism and student dropout rates?Does the former cause conditions for the latter?

Similarly, does presence of toilets reduce dropouts in secondary schools? To what extent do mid-day meals improve student achievement? Do schools with more computer density achieve more academic success? These kinds of questions can be answered once we are able to capture and analyze the big data buried within the education system.


Currently, the big data scenario in India’s educational institutions is not mature enough to harness the power of Big Data, therefore it is hard to say how fast educational institutions will adopt it. Big data can only be helpful if there is rich and dynamic data being captured regularly to qualify as Big Data. Institutions have the task to first identify the kind of data points that they need to track and then put together a process to track and collect a large volumes of data to get real insights through analysis.

As Somnath believes in Big Data might not be used at the K-12 level but it is beneficial for using at the University level. There is a huge cultural difference across the length and breadth of the country. Open universities initiated online courses and using Big Data to analyse students’ performance. Analysing big volume of data and using that data for planning purposes in education sector is the need of the hour.

Universities can benefit more from its many applications. The massive open online courses that are available in plenty, has opened doors for universities to access that data which will provide greater insights into college operations.The data can be used for research purposes at the PHD level. There is an adoption of approximately 70-80 percent at the University level and just 10 percent at the school level.

Big Data will also play a vital role in academic and sports performance of students, professors/teachers’ performance over a period of time. The tool can be used for analysing the skills of an individual student at a macro level and create a personalised learning experience to meet his specific needs.

The analytic tools can help the teachers to see how the student is performing on a particular assignment given. Anin-depth analysis can be done like the amount of time student took to write the answers, how much he understood the assignment, what are his weakness and strengths.

“Any data if analysed carefully and thoroughly has the ability to surprise one with extremely insightful information.The data regarding education has the power to help policy makers take some impactful decision regarding the entire ecosystem of education – syllabus,content, pedagogy, style of teaching, use of digital platforms for teaching etc,”adds Paul.

By enhancing the learning experience of the students at every level, it will reduce the dropout rates at the school and university level and improve their performance.

Security- Big concern

Despite having many benefits of using big data in education the most pressing issue that is being discussed and debated is the security of the data, increasing potential of technologies to make learning popular online.

The huge amount of data that is generating everyday has made it a challenge for education sector to keep abreast of it and use it to the maximum benefit- reasons the computers do not have the capacity to handle large volumes of data.While the network may be fast, the applications can’t keep up. A cognitive computing system could help address this problem.



  • Transforming learning process
  • Massive amount of information available
  • Learning analytics and educational data mining
  • Analysis of education related data
  • Cost effective
  • Improve overall educational outcomes

Teacher quality = Student achievement

  • Consistent upgrading of skills
  • More and more information keeps upto date
  • Ability to centrally study a vast number of students
  • Figure out what is working and what not
  • Innovative teaching
  • Impact of teaching style

Opportunities a plenty

Using Big Data in education has the power of transforming the learning process. Technology allows to capture the massive amount of information. In education there is a vast amount of data flowing. Online courses like MOOCs have helped in generating a huge amount of data which can be used for the benefit of education sector.

New academic disciplines like learning analytics and educational data mining are emerging to make sense of big data in education. Online teaching to use Big Data reforms education delivery and enhance learning. Online courses gives a personalised experience to learners, create communities to practice,standardization of learning, greater flexibility in the system, and lower dropout rates.

The value of the insights harnessed through analysis of education related data will more than justify the costs involved for such an exercise. For example,it may appear anecdotally that girl students are outperforming boys in certain academic and competitive exams. It may also appear that students from Manipur get more medical seats and win more Olympic sports medals, for the same per capita investment in education.

If such big data can be deeply analysed and validated, such insights would make a strong case for proactive public policy making that can improve overall educational outcomes with existing resources.Instead of one size fits all, there can be a more nuanced and fine tuned approach to public investments in education.

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