In the context of the hype, promise and perils of Big Data and the currently dominant paradigm of data-driven decision-making, it is important to critically engage with the potential of Big Data for higher education. We do not question the potential of Big Data, but we do raise a number of issues, and present a number of theses to be seriously considered in realising this potential. The University of South Africa (Unisa) is one of the mega ODL institutions in the world with more than 360,000 students and a range of courses and programmes. Unisa already has access to a staggering amount of student data, hosted in disparate sources, and governed by different processes. As the university moves to mainstreaming online learning, the amount of and need for analyses of data are increasing, raising important questions regarding our assumptions, understanding, data sources, systems and processes. This article presents a descriptive case study of the current state of student data at Unisa, as well as explores the impact of existing data sources and analytic approaches. From the analysis it is clear that in order for big(ger) data to be better data, a number of issues need to be addressed. The article concludes by presenting a number of theses that should form the basis for the imperative to optimise the harvesting, analysis and use of student data.
- Big Data,
- learning analytics,
- student success
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