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

mayacohen

By mayacohen  |  April 02 2014
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How to Keep Your Class Successful and Motivated: Use Connect Insight to Decode Student Behavior


Big Data is a term that is commonly used to acknowledge that there is a great deal of information being gathered on each of us everyday. There is a massive amount of structured and unstructured data on all of us—what we buy, where we eat, whom we email or call. This is also true in education where attendance information, test scores and activity data are gathered constantly.

Big Data is not new in education. What is new about Big Data in education are the tools being used to collect it, the type of data being collected and the processes being developed to use that data to help educators teach and students learn.

Twenty-five years ago kilobytes (kb) of attendance records and exam scores were stored on floppy disks and merged into Big Data stores on monochrome screens. Since the advent of the Learning Management Systems (LMS) and other electronic gradebooks educators and school systems have had even more significant amounts of Big Data.

A few months ago we released Connect Insight. Connect Insight is a first step on a journey to predictive modeling and ultimately to being able to provide an optimized experience with precise personalized recommendations and interventions.

At McGraw-Hill Education, we hope to contribute to making a difference in people’s lives by using data for good through the work that our data scientists and engineers are doing in collaboration with educators and students. Driving us is the promise to use data, big and small, to help people teach and learn. We are building our systems on open standards and see our work as part of the larger science of data research and analytics. We also see the work that we are doing as part of an ecosystem—we give and we receive from a community of educators and students. In the coming months we look forward to making more of the research we are doing available in order to find more collaborators who want to work on the same problems we are working on. We hope to hear from you.

Richard Keaveny
VP, Digital Product Development at McGraw-Hill Higher Education

The Connect Team

By The Connect Team  |  March 25 2014
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THE CREW
The Connect Team

The Connect Team
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