The Role of Data Mining in Education

It's been a long time since I wrote my last blog but when my professor in Data mining assigned us a task to do a reflection about an article in Data Mining. I have thought of documenting it thru a blog.  Here it goes...

Well, Data Mining is also called Knowledge Discovery in Databases(KDD) which is considered as the field of discovering novel and potentially useful information from large amounts of data. It has been applied in a great number of fields, including retails sales, climate change, bioinformatics, healthcare etc.  

So, the first thing I did is to find an article, luckily, I have selected an interesting one entitled Data Mining - the Future of Education by Piotr Ryczko. Since I am an educator,  I chose to reflect on the role of data mining in education. What is indeed the impact of Data Mining in Education? Universities around the world are accepting thousands of students into various courses or programs annually. Therefore, they were able to collect information from students from the moment they register for admissions until they finish their program or even track what jobs or careers they got.  Since data mining is the process of extracting potentially useful information from data sets, these data can be used for classifying and predicting the student's behaviour, performance, and dropouts as well as teachers performance.

If you will apply data mining in education, the term you can use is  Educational data mining (also referred to as “EDM”) which is defined as the area of scientific inquiry centred around the development of methods for making discoveries within the unique kinds of data that come from educational settings and using those methods to better understand students and the settings which they learn in. 

In this article, the author is trying to show the positive and negative side of using Data Mining in the education system and how it is undergoing major changes in every country in the world due to what he called datafication of the whole process of education. Especially when the personal freedom or privacy of the students comes into play. 

As stated in the article, one of the positive sides of data mining is the chance to experience an ideally perfect world where teachers can analyze student's exams and not just finding out what they have learned from their courses.  They can also determine why the students have trouble grasping certain concepts since data mining uses a suite of methods to organize, examine and combine large data sets including machine learning, visualization methods and statistical analysis.  Therefore, the analysis of a Data Mining Algorithm would take into account not only on exam results but also the student's psychological profile, scan its database of millions of students and then pick those cases which are similar so it can suggest solutions to those students who got problems and advise on a more effective way. This really sounds ideal since it will be very helpful for the less fortunate students and it will also make teachers act as advisors at the same time. 

I can say that the Data Mining algorithm is very useful, however, the question here is how far the system is willing to go in order to learn about the student's whereabouts. What about the privacy of the students? In fact, nowadays privacy is also one of the main concerns of human-kind.  According to the author, in different parts of the world such as the United States and Europe, they are seeing some very thought-provoking behaviour from the people governing education reforms. One of the most troubling aspects of these reforms, currently being advanced is an unprecedented monitoring and tracking of students. They monitor almost everything from biometric data to information on children's beliefs and family habits are already being fed into the system.

Well, since the  US Department of Labour admits  that it is working to integrate workforce data and education data, it can collect data from the individual-level from the pre-kindergarten through post-secondary schooling all the way when the start in the workforce and when this is combined with information systems like the Tax system, the Judiciary system and countless other governmental data-collection schemes, the end result paints a future which may be even or would have trouble to envision.

To wrap it all, though there are a lot of challenges in implementing Data mining I can say that data mining is indeed a powerful artificial intelligence which offers several advantages in the field of education since it provides many techniques in analyzing a large amount of student's data from many different dimensions, categorize the information, and summarize relationships that were identified in the database. It uses techniques to analyze educational data and solve educational issues, therefore, many tasks or problems in the educational environment will be addressed or resolved. EDM enables the development of methods for the extraction of interesting, interpretable, useful and novel information which can lead to a better understanding of students. Thru this EDM can identify at-risk students, priorities for the leaning needs of different groups of students, increase graduation rates, assess institutional performance etc.



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