AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Using Data in Education: Four Steps to Success

Global education ministers gathered at the Amazon Web Service Institute’s roundtable at Education World Forum to discuss using data to address major challenges in education.

Educators are increasingly adopting data analytics to understand and address gaps in education. This includes educators in higher education seeking to personalize student-learning experiences and improve learning outcomes, as well as policymakers looking to understand and scale effective teaching methods, increase efficiency and teaching capacity, and address other concerns. AWS’s “Four Steps to Success” offers a high-level guide for leaders seeking to adopt new tools to make better use of the data they are collecting.

Fourteen education ministers and policy leaders hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) Institute at Education World Forum, a global convening of K12 education and skills ministers, met to discuss how to use data to drive student success.

Adopting Cloud Services at Ivy Tech Community College

Brendan Aldrich, Chief Data Officer of California State University, shared lessons learned from Ivy Tech Community College’s cloud transformation. The largest community college in the United States, Ivy Tech wanted to understand student engagement after enrollment. With close to two million student records at 23 campuses, Ivy Tech needed to scale its systems, and find new ways to store and analyze data on student performance.

Ivy Tech first required that vendors make their data interoperable to make it useful. They adopted an AWS cloud-based data warehouse service to perform predictive analytics. They were able to quickly gain insights on students who were struggling, which enabled them to intervene early. With the information they collected, Ivy Tech started proactive remediation with approximately 16,000 students.

In addition to building the technology to allow for data flow, the educators successfully identified key student behaviors that can predict success or failure.

Their efforts were successful: they brought down both the dropout rates as well as low test scores, indicating that more students were passing their classes. Ivy Tech can now predict with 83% accuracy which students are likely to fail certain classes.

Four Steps to Success: An Implementation Guide

Cloud technology helped Aldrich and his team focus their efforts on helping students finish their education and obtain the help they need, when they need it. As educators consider adopting new services to make sense of their data, they may consider this four-step process:

  1. Plan and Prioritize: Education leaders still struggle with understanding what data is being collected, what the value of that data is, and how they can leverage it in real-time to enhance learning and assessment. Data solutions are designed based on the specific challenges; starting with those challenges and using Amazon’s “working backwards” method to design solutions will ensure that the right data is collected and that it is used to inform decision-making.
  2. Collect and Protect: Big data in education – large volumes of data produced from multiple sources including adaptive learning tools, learning management systems, and online discussions, among others – offers an incredible opportunity to personalize education for the individual learner. Collecting this data in a methodical way renders it useful for action.With data collection comes the responsibility to protect student information. Cloud technology allows data to be collected, stored, and transferred according to the highest security and privacy standards.
  3.  Analyze and Act: Through visualization tools, data analytics, data warehousing, and machine learning (ML) tools, educators can discover new insights about student achievement, effective teaching methods, and school efficiency, among other metrics.
  4. Evaluate: Data alone is insufficient. It is important to test whether decisions made have the desired effect. After new technologies are implemented, educators should use data to determine the impact and make continuous adjustments as necessary.

Educators recognize that today’s examples are just the tip of the iceberg of the true potential of data in education. With the right technology, training, and proper policy framework, any challenge can become an opportunity to design new solutions using technology.

For More Information

The AWS Institute, which hosted this gathering, convenes global leaders who share an interest in solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges using technology. The Institute convenes leaders from government, academia, and nonprofit organizations for private discussions to explore innovative ideas to transform the public sector. For more information on the Institute, visit our webpage here. Read our brief guideline to using data here.