In this article I will focus on big data in eLearning, the unique advantages big data can offer to eLearning professionals, and how big data will impact the future of eLearning industry.

The Benefits of Big Data And Its Impact In The Future of eLearning Industry

One of the most amazing aspects of eLearning in today's world is that it is constantly evolving. Thanks to emerging technologies and improved instructional design models, the possibilities are endless for the future of eLearning. A concept that has been a hot topic amongst the eLearning community recently is “big data”. But what, exactly, is big data, and how does it benefit the eLearning industry?

What is Big Data?

Big data, in terms of the eLearning industry, is the data that is created by learners while they are taking an eLearning course or training module. For example, if an employee is interacting with a training module centered around company policies, his/her progress, assessment results, social sharing, and any other data being produced during the eLearning course is “big data”. The Learning Management System, the eLearning Authoring Tool, social media, multimedia, etc, that have been set by the organization or the eLearning professionals, collect the data.

The term “big data” doesn't only apply to the volume of data itself, but the individual pieces of data that are being collected. These pieces of data can be analyzed to offer organizations or eLearning professionals the opportunity to determine how the learner is acquiring information, at what pace, and to pinpoint any problems that may exist within the eLearning strategy itself.

5 Benefits That Big Data Offer To eLearning Professionals

There are a variety of benefits that big data offer to eLearning professionals, all of which have the power to impact the future of eLearning and revolutionize the way we analyze and assess the eLearning experience. Here are just a few of the most significant advantages associated with big data:

  1. Allows eLearning professionals to understand how the learners are digesting the information and which learning needs appeal the most to them. For instance, big data allows eLearning professionals to determine if a reality-based scenario is more effective than a text-based problem solving activity.
  2. Enables eLearning professionals to pinpoint areas that may need to be fine tuned within the eLearning course or module. For example, if multiple learners are taking an excessive amount of time to finish a particular module, this probably means that the module need to be improved in order to make it more manageable for the learners.
  3. Provides an analysis of which eLearning modules are visited the most and in the case of social learning which eLearning modules or links are shared with other learners. For example, you can determine which link was shared via Facebook the most.
  4. Data is received almost immediately, rather than having to wait for long periods of time to receive assessments. This means that eLearning professionals can begin implementing changes or utilizing the data to fine tune their eLearning strategy right away.
  5. Based upon patterns, eLearning professionals have the power to predict where learners may struggle or excel. This way, they can develop their eLearning courses so that learners get the chance to achieve the best possible results.

How Big Data Will Impact The Future of eLearning

There are a number of reasons why big data may, very well, revolutionize the eLearning industry. First and foremost, it will allow eLearning Professionals to customize the eLearning experience  to provide learners with more effective, engaging, and informative eLearning courses and modules. Big data also has the potential to impact the future of eLearning by:

  1. Offering invaluable feedback.
    While online surveys and discussions may offer feedback regarding the effectiveness of eLearning courses and modules, big data gives to eLearning professionals the chance to receive invaluable feedback that can be used to pinpoint where the learner, and the eLearning course itself, may need to be improved. For instance, if a learner is able to look at an analysis of where he/she fell short while taking the eLearning course, he/she can then figure out how to correct the issue moving forward. At the same time, if the online facilitator observes that the majority of the learners struggle with a particular module or assignment, he/she can make proper adjustments to improve learners’ performance.
  2. Allowing eLearning professionals to design more personalized eLearning courses.
    If eLearning professionals are given the opportunity to know how their learners are acquiring information and what works best for them, in terms of content and delivery, then this will result in more personalized and engaging eLearning courses. As such, modules can be custom tailored to meet the individual needs of the learner, which will offer a high quality and meaningful learning experience.
  3. Targeting effective eLearning strategies and eLearning goals.
    Big data in eLearning gives us an inside look at which eLearning strategies are working and which ones aren't necessarily helpful in terms of eLearning goal achievement. For example, you can determine which eLearning courses are contributing to skill development and which eLearning modules or elements may be irrelevant. As such, you can then devote resources to the aspects that are working, so that the learners can receive the preparation they need to fulfill their career goals.
  4. Tracking learner patterns.
    With big data, eLearning professionals gain the rare ability to track a learner throughout the entire process, from start to finish. In other words, you can see how well they performed on a test, or how quickly they finished a challenging eLearning module. This helps you to pinpoint patterns that will not only enable you to learn more about the learning behaviors of the individual learner, but your learners’ group as a whole.
  5. Expanding our understanding of the eLearning process.
    As eLearning professionals, it's essential that we learn as much as possible about how learners acquire and digest knowledge. Big data gives us the chance to gain an in depth understanding of the eLearning process and how the learners are responding to the eLearning courses we are delivering to them. We can even figure out which time of day they learn most effectively or which delivery methods allow them to retain information most efficiently. This information can then be used to take our eLearning strategies to the next level.

To make a long story short, embracing Big Data reshapes eLearning and it’s a win-win situation for both the eLearning professionals and the learners.

Want to learn more about why you should be embracing big data? Read the Why You Should be Embracing Big Data in e-Learning article, which features an in-depth look at the opportunities made possible through big data in today's eLearning.

In addition, I highly encourage you to read the Big Data and How It’s Changing e-Learning article to find out how Big Data is changing the way we approach e-Learning design.