Big Data in Higher Education

A good summary of Gartner’s predictions for 2013—which emphasizes the aspects that are relevant to education—can be found here, in an article by Dian Schaffhauser from Campus Technology. Several converging ‘forces’ will converge in 2013 according to Gartner, involving Cloud, Social, Mobile, and Information. The first prediction is the focus of this post, because there is more to it than most institutions are leveraging today.

The article summarizes four predictions, which are:

  1. Data Will Fuel the Killer Apps of the Future
  2. Security Concerns Pervade Mobile Use
  3. Gamification Joins the Mainstream
  4. Augmented Reality Takes Shape

Although these are reasonable and will likely hold true, evidence of the first prediction is everywhere, but are enough institutions leveraging data fully? Some are of course, but there is far more potential to be realized.

In the commercial sector we see powerful examples that this trend is indeed charging forward with tremendous energy. For example, the CEO of GE (Jeff Immelt) recently said that GE can grow its revenues by 4% to 5% annually by leveraging the use of online data for better operations (for GE, 4%-5% means an increase of $5.6 Billion to $7.2 Billion annually). He called it the “industrial Internet”, which he defined as collecting data from machines in order to run analytics to use those machines better. A post that covers the details can be found here.

Any way you slice it, that’s meaningful!  But, more interestingly is what will tag along with these kinds of initiatives: better analytics, better automation, more scalable solutions, etc. And, while some institutions are leveraging some analytics in the areas of student success, recruiting, degree planning and audit, etc many are just beginning to capture and leverage data or have not yet started.

So, lots happening here, the question is… is it happening in education?  Clearly the answer is yes (to an extent, and in pockets), but lots more can be done here, and hopefully 2013 will see some good progress in leveraging data.


  1. Analytics in education at any level makes a lot of sense. It would be the decision maker in whether our curriculums are working as they were designed to be if not then what changes would be appropriate.

    Julie Jacko

  2. Execution needs experience in information management, business, analytics, quants, visualizing, decisions making, strategic questions and software that delivers/integrates for management for a reasonable investment – still searching