Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Making Learning #data public from @CarnegieMellon

Wonderful article from Inside Higher Ed mentioned that "Carnegie Mellon University will open the world’s largest database on student learning to the public in an effort to identify best practices and standards for using technology in the classroom". The initiative will be called the Simon Initiative, and which will (initially?) build upon the research taking place at the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center (PSLC) and their partners.

The science of Learning Center or LearnLab will open up their data collected over the last 9 years and publish them on an open wiki. The data already resulted in some insights: reflection increases learning, explaining algebra (and I guess scientific or other ideas) in your own language increases comprehension and retention. Seems of interest to keep an eye out for this Simon Initiative for sure. Learnlab already has this nice feature called data shop which is a data repository and analysis service for the learning science community. And this data shop offers everyone the opportunity to look at public data sets, isn't that GREAT! Have a look, it even has links to papers based upon the data. Really nice.

The article got my attention, as opening up data from which we can all learn will increase chances of moving all of us ahead. Especially if factors or elements that interest us can be put forward as potential meta-data or simply to be used for data mining and getting us the results that matter to our learning/teaching. The approach for this initiative seems to be created by people at the top, as the article mentioned that "to support the open-access initiative, the institution will form a council of higher education leaders, education technology experts and industry representatives to distribute the data and guide the conversation". I hope some of the thoughts or debates coming out of these sessions will also be made public, or that the interested public for this initiative will be able to voice their remarks based on hot discussions. A bit of bottom up views to weave into the top down views.

Carnegie Mellon is one of the institutes I would love to work for. It is just the way they move forward and the attempt they constantly make at using education to lift everyone up.
The Open Learning Initiative which has been doing groundwork on effective online learning, open and free online courses and getting Open Educational Resources (OER) out there for everyone to share and use, is now a key actor in getting learning data out to the public and scientists. Their approach is multidisciplinary which is also always of interest.

In the comments given at the end of the article, people rightfully remark that it would be good if the data would also include data from long lasting online learning providers. This would indeed be a great addition to the open learning data initiative and I hope they will achieve this (I gather this will take time to get everyone in agreement around the table).