In data mining and data analytics, tools and techniques once confined to research laboratories are being adopted by forward-looking industries to improve decision making. Higher education institutions are beginning to use analytics for improving the services they provide and for increasing student grades and retention. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan, as one part of its model for learning powered by technology, envisions ways of using data from online learning systems to improve instruction.
With analytics and data mining experiments in education starting to proliferate, sorting out fact from fiction and identifying research possibilities and practical applications are not easy. This issue brief is intended to help policymakers and administrators understand how analytics and data mining have been—and can be—applied for educational improvement while rigorously protecting student privacy.