Data, What is it Good for?

July 12, 2016

Statistics, analytics, visualization – these are the driving forces that allow us to understand the multitude of data pouring into unseen databases across the world. But what do they mean for higher education and online learning?

Data analysis and visualization allows us to comprehend how data is linked to one another, to see the unforeseen. Visualization tools provide actionable insight into decision-making, allowing users to easily find significance and correlation between the data. There are many forms of visualizations: venn diagrams, maps, infographics, histograms, time series, etc. The list is extensive and I could dedicate an entire blog post to the various types, but for now I will leave you with this informative visualization, What Makes a Good Visualization.

As the use and types of visualization tools increase, it is important to understand how they can be applied at educational institutions. Administrators can track student success through various metrics that are tailored to the institution, and faculty and students can use the tools for professional development. From an administrative perspective, visualizing and understanding student success online is key to growing online programs. Also, teaching students the interdisciplinary and professional importance of visualization tools is necessary in a world driven by data.

Online learning is becoming integral to higher education, due to low costs and the ability to learn from anywhere, anytime. The growth in online programs allows data visualization to provide learning experiences for both students and faculty. Students can easily use visualization tools to create infographics online, learn a new topic, or understand how topics link to one another. Faculty can also use data visualization within Learning Management Systems (LMS) to track student success within her/his course. For example Canvas, a LMS tool, provides metrics on student participation, grades, and interactions with both the course instructor and other students.

While vast amounts of data can be overwhelming, the use of data visualization tools can provide insight and connections between them. Educational institutions are beginning to use these tools for various reasons, but perhaps one of the more important uses is for online education. Implementing visualization tools within online courses can allow students to integrate data analytics into their learning, while also providing faculty with tools to help improve students’ learning experiences.

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