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Intelligent Experiences: Data’s Impact on Education

How connecting data with real-time experiences can help institutions and learners achieve their goals.

Technology has revolutionized our experiences inside and outside the classroom.

Just like the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions before, the Digital Revolution catalyzed by the pandemic continues to transform life as we know it. Learning today is unlike any time before. Let’s explore the past and present of technology’s role in education so we can better understand the future and what’s to come.

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Prior to Louis Braille’s creation of the written Braille system, people with visual impairments were expected to learn through audio formatting. But the learner experience is not universal, and the Braille system allows students to take control of their own experience.

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Headphones revolutionized the classroom experience, adding a sense of entertainment and individualized content into the school day. Blocking out distractions, headphones have given learners more opportunity to focus and learn at their own pace.

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Overhead Projectors

Overhead projectors provided teachers an engaging and organized outlet to display notes and classroom materials. By creating real-time interaction, overhead projectors helped educators keep their learners focused in new ways.

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Scantron System

Using Optical Mark Recognition (OMR), Scantron products can scan thousands of sheets per hour. This inexpensive technology decreased the amount of time instructors spent grading and opened the door to new innovations focused on efficiency.

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First Portable Computer

Laptops and other portable computer devices kickstarted the realm of on-the-go learning that we value so much today. Portable computers increased project-based lessons while introducing computer and digital literacy in the classroom and new organizational resources for both instructors and students.

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Commercial Graphic Calculator

Within mathematics, handheld graphing calculators have helped students understand more of why – rather than how – they are utilizing various mathematical formulas. This new way of teaching and applying EdTech into lessons allowed students to grasp mathematical concepts in deeper ways.

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With the rise of the internet and World Wide Web, Hypertext Markup Language revolutionized the way websites and website navigation operate. This system is the basis for how a website is formatted, from images, links, tables, and so on, and made working through the web for educational purposes that much easier.

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Interactive Whiteboard

Interactive whiteboards made technology the center of the classroom, displacing traditional blackboards and projectors. Educators leveraged interactive whiteboards to engage their class in one-to-many and peer-to-peer activities.

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Wikis allowed learners to take more agency over their own learning, both collaborating on wikis as contributors, and using them for information gathering. This digital “hands on” approach to information created an environment where learners could pursue interests inside and outside the classroom, at their own pace.

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While the first Learning Management System (LMS) was invented in the 1920s, many modern LMS’s have moved to the cloud. With all the content and information that you need in one location, an LMS can be accessed anywhere while fostering a personalized, easy-to-use learning environment for students and teachers.

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Open Education Resources

Open Education Resources (OERs) provide students free, unlimited access to an array of academic tools, resources and materials. Breaking down unequal resource access across institutions, these tools help improve overall student success and engagement rates.

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Video Streaming

The ability to stream video onto any internet connected device opened the doors for both synchronous and asynchronous learning to take place in new ways. It also furthered learner agency by putting instructional content at the fingertips of anyone with a mobile device.

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eReaders and iPhones

Early personal devices gave way to personalized instruction and the idea that each learner and instructor can work at their own pace, on their own device. It also widened the digital divide, surfacing inequities that still exist today.

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“There’s an app for that” era

App stores opened the door to rapid innovation in the EdTech space, with the “There’s An App For That” era, taking off in the early 2010’s. Issues of access and equity persisted during this time as apps as diverse as the learners themselves hit the virtual app store shelves.

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The next wave of personal devices created new avenues for individualizing instruction and communication with learners, educators and administrators who had access to these devices. While disparities continued, the possibilities of providing experiences based on a unique user’s digital behavior came to light as more complex devices became common place.

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Massive Online Open Courses

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) increased access to education worldwide. These free, online courses turned higher education on its ear, removing several barriers to elite education including cost and location.

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Accessibility Tools

Innovation focused on creating more accessible digital content makes learning more accessible for all. Content conversion and web formatting solutions enable more people to consume content in the way that works for them – eBraille, audio, tagged PDF, etcetera.

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COVID-19 pandemic sparks unprecedented adoption of digital learning tools

During the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning forced many teachers and students to engage with a plethora of digital learning tools they’ve never used before. During this time, many learners discovered they can learn better at their own pace, in an alternative environment, and more. Meanwhile, EdTech adapted to meet their mental, social, and emotional needs during this unprecedented time, forever changing the way classroom technology is used.

The Evolution of Education Technology

Technological advancements throughout the years have influenced the learning experience, inside and outside the classroom. Computers, the internet and cloud services were created for consumer markets, but they have largely influenced how learners navigate their educational path, and how those who support learners in the day-to-day guide them. The emergence of EdTech – hardware and software specifically designed for education – put student success at the core of this wave of innovation.

Throughout the 1990s technology was used to engage students in new ways. As innovative educators began using new technologies to facilitate learning experiences, they expanded access to education by extending the classroom, removing barriers and creating more inclusive environments. Using learner success as the North Star, computers entered the picture and internet connections sewed together learning communities globally. The first EdTech companies emerged with a focus of helping learners achieve their goals through the use of technology.

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In the 2000s, applications emerged to help learners and instructors communicate, manage files, collaborate, and make their lives easier from enrollment through graduation, and beyond. Social media ushered in a new era of professional development and educators found new ways of connecting to share best practices for integrating technology into the learner’s experience.

The massive open online courses (MOOC) movement represented a one-to-many approach with a promise to deliver higher education at scale. Millions of learners enrolled in courses, seeking to learn new skills. However, the one-to-many approach lacked the interactive element of learning and a personalized approach needed to keep learners engaged and on track to their goals.

Throughout this time, access to new technologies began shifting learner expectations. Learners wanted to access coursework on the devices in the palm of their hand, and manage the business of being a student with the same ease they experienced in other areas of their lives.

Icon illustration representing a person Sammy | Student

“In the future, I anticipate that personalized experiences in the educational sphere will be most useful to identify students who are having trouble with certain concepts. Students who may not thrive under a one-size-fits-all model may flourish with non-traditional personalized education.”

Icon illustration representing a person Carolina | Student

“I see personalized experiences as a tool that will help students understand themselves better by allowing them to keep track of their progress.”

Icon illustration representing a person Nitya | Student

“I think personalized experiences in education are bound to increase as more technologies and apps are readily available. As students obtain greater access to educational tools, personalized experiences in learning will become more impactful and useful.”

Photo of a woman surrounded by data visual illustrations representing the path to personalizationThe Path to Personalization

Before the pandemic rapidly accelerated the use of new technologies across all industries, the conversation around personalization was already building momentum in higher education. Personalized experiences are ones that are informed by data and created for an individual user.

In the past, institutions accumulated massive sets of data that provided a broad view across all users. While this data was valuable and ultimately laid the groundwork for a much more personalized approach, it did not consider or provide insight into the individual user’s experience.

In a personalized environment, tailored communications and interactions are based on data reflecting a user’s history within the institution’s technology ecosystem. Essentially, it’s the concept that each user experience is unique based on their own needs.

By personalizing the education experience, learners can progress in the manner that best suits them, receiving proactive insights and nudges, and most importantly, queuing a caring adult, instructor, or advisor to provide support when needed.

The necessity of more personalization across education is nearly unanimous. 94 percent of institution leaders agree that their university is actively looking for new opportunities to aggregate and analyze data to drive more insights, ultimately seeking to use data to help improve outcomes for student populations through personalization.

Photo of a woman surrounded by illustrations representing connected data at an institutionIntelligent Experiences are the Future

Personalization in and of itself can have a tremendous impact on students and institutions, but when we take the idea a few steps further to create experiences that are truly intelligent, that is where the real opportunity lies to support outcomes in today’s learning environment. An intelligent experience happens when data is connected across key systems to create more relevant engagement between staff, faculty and students. A learner does not exist inside one system alone, and neither does an institution. Both rely on an extended network of technology – the Learning Management System (LMS), Student Information System (SIS) and other solutions – to support the work they are doing on a day-to-day basis.

When we contextualize and analyze data to make it actionable and marry it with experiences that have historically been routine, those everyday exchanges become more informed and impactful.

Consider this: Personalization occurs when a faculty member reaches out one-on-one to a student who is less engaged in a course based on insights delivered by the LMS. If that same faculty member is prompted to reach out at a specific time based on when that student is most likely to respond, identified using data aggregated from across that student’s journey at the institution, then this experience becomes intelligent and more likely to elicit the desired outcome. Intelligent experiences are about connecting the dots across systems, rather than simply analyzing data within a single system, and proactively serving up insights that are actionable to users.

Creating Intelligent Experiences:
The Data Analytics Hierarchy

Data should be used to support human-to-human interactions in education. For learners, these insights support conversations with advisors about course work, challenges, and pathways. For educators, data can help identify learners who would benefit from outreach, additional materials or coaching. For administrators, real-time information gives way to new activities, confirming strategic objectives, or flagging a problem. Through intelligent experiences, these data insights become built-in to the learner’s journey.

To create truly intelligent, data-driven experiences, it is important to view data analytics as a hierarchy of stages. In this format, data is the basis for creating meaning, which evolves from information into knowledge through context. However, knowledge and even wisdom in the next stage are not enough to create an intelligence-driven experience. It’s when analysis becomes part of the picture that the path to action becomes clear, ideally creating the desired impact for learners as identified on the left side of the pyramid. By providing users across the institution with the right insights at the right time to inform intention and action, they can in turn help learners become more engaged and successful.

Data Analytics Framework Inspired by the DIKW Pyramid

Intelligent Experiences In Action

Stage 1:
A spreadsheet is exported from the LMS with information on students’ first-semester GPAs.

Stages 2 & 3:
The data is aggregated and organized, and the report becomes an informational output.

Stage 4:
Contextualized with the knowledge that students with a GPA below 2.5 are at a greater risk of stopping out, the data is then used to identify students who need further support.

Stages 5 & 6:
Academic support teams are automatically notified through triggering mechanisms to develop an outreach plan.

Stage 7:
Automatically monitoring how many students with this GPA range continues after their first year. Taking into account other variables that may have affected student performance, institutions can infer that this outreach helped the majority of these students successfully re-enroll or determine that additional support was needed for those that didn’t remain with the program.

Photo of five people working at a long table with the focus on two women working togetherThe Result: Learner, Educator and Institutional Success

The potential impact of intelligent experiences is immense. Ultimately, these experiences lead to the most enduring outcomes possible – enrollment, progression, retention, and graduation. By offering learners a journey that is entirely tuned to their specific preferences, strengths, and needs, we can identify unexpected obstacles and support the learner with the human interactions required at just the right time. Data in this new era is nearly inconspicuous, providing efficiencies that seem so natural we hardly noticed them but after they are there, cannot imagine living without them.

Getting There from Here

Our vision of the future is an inspiring and infinite world of learning without boundaries, which can only be achieved through dynamic, data-driven experiences. Anthology Intelligent Experiences can help every learner and institution reach their goals today while also preparing for tomorrow. The path to intelligence requires a holistic technology ecosystem that only Anthology can provide.

Let’s unlock the future together.

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