Big Data in Education: Realities, Challenges and Opportunities

The Internet of Things (IoT) and a new, faster web (known as Web 3.0) are here upon us, and as some wise old dude stated, we have no choice but to adapt or perish. One of the newer technologies related to the IoT is Big Data, which fundamentally involves the collection, analysis, and application of large volumes of data in various spheres.

In this article, the focus is on the use of Big Data in eLearning App Development and the opportunities and realities it presents as well as the existing challenges and gaps in research that need to be addressed to enhance effectiveness. Here we go:

Big Data opportunities in education

Big Data in Education

Looking at how different industries, most notably finance and business, have adopted and benefited from data analytics, we can see a similar future in the education sector. Here are four key opportunities that Big Data presents to education stakeholders.

1. Enhanced student performance

It's safe to say that the main aim of integrating Big Data, and any other digital technology for that matter, in the education sector is to improve student performance. By collecting and analyzing data on, among other things, student behaviors in the classroom setting, their enthusiasm during classes and their interactions with teachers and fellow students, teachers and management will have a foundation from which to improve teaching and learning processes. They will also be able to point out factors affecting an individual student's performance and come up with effective solutions through analytics.

2. Credible grading

Big Data offers teachers a faster and more convenient way to mark and grade student essays, quizzes, and tests. If you attended a government college, you have probably witnessed or experienced a case of poorly marked tests, missing marks or delayed results. It's easy to blame this on the 'lazy' professors but thinking about it, they have hundreds of test papers from multiple classes to attend to, and they are not even sufficiently remunerated to begin with, which affects the quality of their marking. In Big Data, colleges and universities have a credible, reliable system to not only mark various papers but also swiftly release results, making things easier for everyone.

3. Holistic development

Over the years, there have been concerted efforts by government agencies, parents and other stakeholders towards holistic development of learners. The idea is to impart the future generation with additional skills from extra-curricular activities to add on to their academic competencies.

With Big Data, schools can track their students' performance across several disciplines both at an individual and collective level and develop relevant ed-tech solutions to assist in progress. Records of past performances help in predicting future performances and faced with potential failure, institutions can use Big Data analysis to make timely positive interventions that add value to their students' personal development.

4. Dynamic learning programs

Learning Programs

With more than 20 million students enrolling in US Colleges as at fall 2017, and the number increasing every year, colleges are finding it hard to keep up with the infrastructure requirements. With Big Data and other modern technologies, however, they can register thousands of students in structured online courses, known as Massive Open Online Courses in academic circles without having to build a single lecture hall. This reduces costs for both the students and schools, boosts performance and ensures greater access to education.

What's more, having well-managed analytics systems can help institutions to customize learning programs based on individual learners abilities and performance. Thus, slow learners can move at their own pace while the fast learners get ahead as opposed to the current situation where they all move in sync.

Realities and challenges of Big Data in education

Indeed, Big Data analytics and related technologies such as Deep Learning, Cloud Computing and Supporting Vector Machines are the key to a more modern, more successful education model. Nonetheless, in the midst of all the opportunities and advantages it offers, Big Data also presents a bunch of challenges including:

1. Limited talent pool

As more and more sectors continue to warm up to Big Data, the demand for skilled data experts is at an all-time high. Unfortunately, not many top colleges offer data science courses, meaning that there are very few people with the necessary skills to ensure seamless adoption of Big Data in the education sector. As a consequence, most schools will not be able to use the tech, locking out millions of students from those opportunities.

2. Scalability and storage issues

In some cases, the rate at which data is collected and analyzed goes beyond the processing capabilities of available Big Data machines. Crashes and slowdowns are common occurrences in such cases, and they affect the quality of analysis and the resulting outcomes. As such, top developers need to come up with more scalable processing and storage systems that support both present and future requirements.

3. Data errors

Big Data, as the name suggests, deals with massive volumes of data. To put it in context, an average public institution has several thousand students. In the process of keeping multiple datasets of the entire student population across several categories, errors and mistakes such as data losses can occur. These are especially common in cloud storage systems and can be quite expensive to correct and may even necessitate completely new data. Of course, this is not a big problem to navigate, but as mentioned in point 1, there are not enough experts to advise schools on the procedures.

4. Data safety concerns

Data Safety

Data safety and integrity is arguably the biggest concern about Big Data to regulatory authorities and education stakeholders. For one, the existing security protocols are not well equipped to handle the large volumes of data involved in Big Data analytics. What's more, it is very expensive, not to mention difficult, to effectively manage the dynamic or continuously updating type of data the technology brings about. Hackers, therefore, have an easy time getting to datasets, particularly those stored in the cloud without data owners noticing.

Granted, academic data may not be as sensitive as financial or health data, but still, there is fear that hackers and malicious people may use the weak security systems of Big Data to gain access to volumes of student data. Fortunately, further research is ongoing in this aspect, and hopefully, it results in better, more reliable data protection methods.


Big Data, although still in its infancy stages, has the potential to be a game-changer in the learning sector over the foreseeable future. It will result in smarter, more "complete" students who will undoubtedly have positive impacts on industries and the society at large. We believe that even with the challenges, Big Data and in extension, the Internet of Things, are the future of our existence, just like the World Wide Web was in the '80s.

What are your ideas about Big Data? Do you think it will improve the learning sector? Share your thoughts with us.

This is a guest post by Charles Ebert. Charles is a career mentor, content writer for, motivational speaker & human resources consultant with over 10 years of experience in HR sector. Apart from career mentoring, he loves photography and football. Find him on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook & Google+.