In Praise of Small Data

   Brian Kibby, President, MHHE
Brian Kibby

I hate buzz words.

For some time, I’ve been saying that “Big Data” is the most misused term in education. For all the chest-pounding on how Big Data has come to education, what offers have we really seen in the marketplace? What can instructors actually use? And, how is it impacting teaching and learning at scale—right now, in 2014?

On September 6, 2013, I called a company-wide town hall meeting and put a stake in the ground: “We are going to be the first major Learning Company to offer our customers a data and analytics package they can understand and use to improve student performance and we’re going to do it by January 2014!”

It takes real conviction, serious brain power, and a great deal of hard work to meet a challenge like this, and I’m proud to say that the McGraw-Hill Education team was up to the task: Connect Insight launched January 2, 2014.

We created Connect Insight by thinking not about big data, but about small, usable information. We are already intimately involved with the teaching and learning experiences of thousands of instructors and millions of students around the world—by using that fact to our advantage, we realized we could create something no one else could, sooner than anyone thought: a way for instructors to look at the performance of their students and their own assignments (right now! In 2014!) and make data-driven decisions on how to improve and optimize performance. In other words, we created Small Data.

“Intuitive” and “actionable” are the two values at the heart of Connect Insight. Prior to its launch, Stephen Laster, our chief digital officer, and I often talked about the need to focus on simplicity and create products that are elegant and easy to use. Sure, the underlying technology and analysis may be complicated, but for this tool to truly make an impact, it has to be intuitive enough for everyone to be able to use and benefit from. With Connect Insight, we hit the mark.

When developing Connect Insight, we obsessed over finding ways to deliver insights that instructors could actually use to power success in their courses. As Richard Keaveny, one of our digital product leaders often says, “Data is cool, but analysis is powerful.” To that, I would add: “Action is transformative.” With Connect Insight, we transformed the role of data in education by providing educators with information sufficiently small enough to act upon.

The future of data in education is enormously bright—and admittedly big. That is, if we think small: neat, visual, actionable and available.

Brian Kibby
President, McGraw-Hill Higher Education

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By mayacohen  |  April 02 2014
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