Higher Education: A Disconnect between Data Analysis and Behavior

October 9, 2019

DarkCyber worked through “Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in Higher Education: Promising or Perilous?” The write up tries to strike a balance between commercial practices and the job universities are supposed to do. Smart software can help an admissions officer determine which students are “really” interested in a particular institution. In view of the payments parents have made to get their children into prestigious universities, we’re just not buying this argument.

We noted this statement about other uses of smart software:

Other uses extend to student support, which for example, makes recommendations on courses and career paths based on how students with similar data profiles performed in the past. Traditionally this was a role of career service officers or guidance counselors, the data-based recommendation service arguably provides better solutions for students. Student support is further elevated by the use of predictive analytics and its potential to identify students who are at risk of failing or dropping out of university. Traditionally, institutions would rely on telltale signs of attendance or falling GPA to assess whether a student is at risk. AI systems allow for the analysis of more granular patterns of the student’s data profile. Real-time monitoring of the student’s risk allows for timely and effective action to be taken.

The indicator of student performance is grades. Maybe one can consider certain extra curricular activities as useful signals.

DarkCyber is not certain that today’s institutions of higher education are much more than loan agency middlemen.

The notion that today’s academic environment will improve when adjunct professors who work for less than “regular” professors seems odd. Will poorly paid adjuncts chase down a student who has lousy grades and doesn’t attend lectures or go through the online work. Then will that adjunct or maybe a graduate assistant know what magic words to say to get the student on track?

DarkCyber doubts the present academic environment encourages this type of behavior. At a recent conference, a professor on the program asked me, “Do you think I need to contact an agent to get me more speaking engagements?”

Typical. Students are not a primary concern it seems.

Stephen E Arnold, October 9, 2019


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