Data Mining on College Campuses?

/>An interesting article appeared in the New Your Times on July 18: Big Data on Campus. Marc Perry, a technical reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education, describes several instances of campuses using data mining.

In one instance, Netflix-like algorithms recommend courses for students to take – considering everything from high school GPA, the student”s performance in current courses, and data from past students, the algorithm may advise a student to take Physics rather than Biology to complete her science requirement.

In another instance, an amplified course scheduler sets a student on a path to complete the requirements for her major, alerting her if she “strays from the path” (e.g., doesn”t perform well in a math course and is majoring in physics). If the student strays too far from the path, the system may tell her its time to change her major.

The article does a nice job of reviewing both the virtues and the dangers of data mining. On the one hand, students get personalized advice on how to proceed through college, which really can help them stay on track (Arizona State reports these measures are already increasing retention). On the other hand, students may lose that sense of discovery that comes from stumbling into a class and finding a whole new and unexpected career path.

It”s worth a read!

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