Promise, Application and Pitfalls
Edited by John Storm Pedersen and Adrian Wilkinson
Chapter 14: Artificial reality: The practice of analytics and big data in educational research
Is the promise of big data and analytics in higher education an artificial reality? The digital society is marked by different discourses on the role of big data and analytics in the domains of business, health and education. In education, these discourses place the higher education sector at a crossroads between transformational challenges and opportunities. At the same time, the sector is already witnessing sweeping large-scale technological and pedagogical disruption, requiring a far-reaching drastic transformation of teaching, learning and research. The technological disruptions are brought about by the increasing permeation of distributed mobile, ubiquitous and enterprise technologies into the learning and teaching environments. Also, there is a widespread global demand for neoliberal educational policy reforms, particularly on the issues of global quality in the provision of education, standards, compliance and accountability, student mobility and massification of educational offerings. To adequately respond to the various transformations needed in the sector, institutions are required to engage in the utilization of data to help them address the complex challenges they face. However, harvesting and analysing this data remains an artificial reality, since it requires extensive investment in data science expertise and growing the data-informed decision-making. Researchers have questioned the ability of educational researchers to fully utilize big data and analytics to address the critical educational problems of our time. This chapter examines current research on big data and analytics in higher education and discusses critical issues likely to affect the practice of big data for educational research. It outlines opportunities afforded by analytics and big data in the context of education, and outlines challenges educational researchers need to deal with to maximize the opportunities afforded by big data and analytics, as they transition from educational research into research education that utilizes data science approaches.
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