The Impact of Big Data on Higher Education

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We were recently thrilled by an article about “Big Data” by Juan Enriquez. It told us things like, “Every year we try to cram in, read, understand, and remember at least 5 percent more words than the year before,” and “More than 99 percent of the world’s written words, images, music and data are transmitted in the two-letter Boolean alphabet of 1s and 0s.” We thought long and hard about how big data will change the world. Then we thought more locally about how it could impact higher education. Here are three new questions about what it may bring:

1. Can big data eliminate the “what ifs” of learning?

A large portion of learning is based on “what if.” For example, what if one is added to one? You will get two. However, there are bigger “what ifs” that don’t have answers. These “what ifs” are meant to be argued about, explored, and questioned to further educate. This article states that “I think I’m sure” will be replaced with “I know and can prove it.” Does that mean that a dialogue on a topic will be replaced with big data statistics that can answer every higher education question without a doubt?

2. How will we draw the line on what is a legitimate resource?

Right now, a resource in higher education is usually considered a study, an expert, or a scholarly report. However, as big data makes knowledge more available, you are able to talk directly to people who were at an event or tested a new theory, rather than read the reports on it. Could you cite them as a legitimate resource? Or would they just be offering an opinion? Or both? Big data essentially makes your resources endless, but what resources are considered valuable will become a whole new matter – a world that Wikipedia has already entered.

3. Will there be a whole new job market created for big data?

We can barely contain all the information we have today, and according to Juan Enriquez, it doubles every two years. This growth will create a massive market for big data management that could take down the cloud, rewire the world, and reinvent the jobs we train for in technology. Are there higher education degrees available that are keeping up with the growing potential for big data careers?

We’re not big data experts and our questions aren’t predictions; they are more about letting our imaginations run wild. Either way, at some point, big data will likely help provide an answer to our questions.

Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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