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Monitoring behaviour and catching cheats: Improving education with big data

Big data has got a lot of attention in the business world, but why shouldn't it be applied to other sectors as well? The ability to integrate and analyse data sets can create useful insights in all areas of life, and several startups have taken that vision and applied it to education. Education faces many challenges, from limited funding, to managing classrooms, to improving student outcomes, but now, thanks to big data services, high-tech solutions may make dealing with these challenges a little bit easier.

Improving class behaviour

Managing students who are acting out or refusing to participate can quickly take up a good chunk of the school day, and often parents are unaware of how their child is behaving in class unless they do something big enough to warrant a phone call. Now a website and app called Class Dojo could help improve class discipline and keep parents in the loop at the same time.

The app seeks to gamify discipline by giving students points for good behaviour and taking away points for bad behaviour. The app allows students to create their own avatar, and teachers can choose to grant awards when students gain a certain number of points. It also permits parents to log on and see if their child has been gaining or losing points and why, and creates a time-stamped report indicating how an individual child or an entire class was doing throughout the day. Ultimately, the data created is useful for teachers and parents alike who are looking for patterns about their students' behaviour.

Punctuality and attendance

School districts often have fragmented data sets. Data on attendance and punctuality would be kept separate from test scores or demographic information. Kept separately, the insights that could be gained from this data were limited. However, just as companies can gain value by analysing larger data sets, so can schools. Of course, schools generally don't have the funds or the IT staff to run their own big data projects; however, with the help of an easy-to-use platform, schools can use big data analysis to their advantage. Eduvant offers data integration and data analysis dashboards that can help teachers identify patterns or drops in student performance that they may not be able identify on their own when they have hundreds of students to keep track of.

Real-time examination monitoring

Online classes are becoming more commonplace as they offer more flexibility to students who can't attend lessons in-person. However, one problem with online courses is that it's difficult to monitor a student to see if he or she is cheating on a quiz or an exam or even if it is the actual student taking the exam and not someone else. Verificient Technologies has created a monitoring system that uses facial recognition and big data analysis to help schools identify test takers and identify cheating. The technology uses a facial and knuckle scan to identify a student when he or she logs in, and then takes 30 impressions per second of the student and the computer. Based on parameters the school sets, the system flags suspicious behaviour for the school to take a closer look at.

Engaging parents

MommaZoo is a mobile app that keeps all school material in one location for students, parents and teachers to access. The app can notify parents of homework tasks, due dates and requests for school supplies as wells as permit teachers to create and share videos about certain concepts. The contact management function of the app helps to create the school directory and provides links for texting.

With big data improving efficiency, communication and classroom management, teachers can spend more time teaching and, with more data at their disposal, improve how they teach certain students for better educational outcomes.

Image credit: Flickr (amanda p. wu)

Gil Allouche is the vice president of marketing at Qubole. Gil began his marketing career as a product strategist at SAP while earning his MBA at Babson College and is a former software engineer.