What to do with Big Data?

On the topic of Big Data, I enjoyed reading Duhigg’s NY Times article, “How Companies Learn Your Secrets” (Feb 16, 2012). It was interesting to hear how Target uses shopping information to predict whether a woman is pregnant. I believe I must have been one of the statistics as I was pregnant with both my children around the time Andrew Pole developed his predictive model. I must admit, the ads worked for me. I have always preferred Target over other big box stores. I like that I can get everything I need in one place. Especially when I had my kids with me on shopping trips, it’s much easier to make one stop than 3 or 4 multiple stops. Personally, I didn’t mind getting those coupons and ads in the mail. I needed those items anyway, now I can get them for cheaper!

As a teacher, I have been gathering data on my students’ test scores to help me determine whether it was an appropriate assessment and whether students are meeting the objectives for the course. Before using Haiku LMS, I used to type students’ test scores into an Excel spreadsheet or an online grading system to analyze the means. If the mean was low for a particular test, I usually go back to the test and look at the questions to see if it could be better phrased, etc. If a particularly low score on a test is a red-flag that I should reach out to the student and offer additional assistance.

In the past 3 semesters, I have been using Haiku LMS for assessments. Students log into the course website using Safe Exam Browser to take the test/quiz. For most of my students, this is the first time they’ve ever taken their test or quiz online. One of the features   I love is the ability to see how well students do on each question. For example, on the recent Muscular system test, students did very well on the action terms since we did a huge Kinesiology project on analyzing movement and action. However, students seem to struggle a bit with the definitions for “origin”, “insertion”, and “isotonic”. This type of analytics allow me to note where students need further help with the material. I can identify trouble spots and revise my lessons for future classes.

Muscle Test

My students don’t have access to this particular information although they are able to view their test and see exactly what they got wrong. And they can do this in the comfort of their own home. No longer do I have students hounding me down at the end of class to find out what they got wrong on a particular question and why. Students can also view their grades as I update them so they always know where they stand in the class. I find that these features of Haiku LMS have removed the awkward grade disputes I used to have with students. I can focus more on planning more effective lessons to engage and motivate my students’ learning.

Haiku LMS also offers a way to track how often students are logging in to access information. However, I don’t access this data very often partly because I do see my students in a face-to-face setting every other day. Through my interactions with students in class, I can usually tell which students I need to spend more time with.

Big data is not going away. It’ll be interesting to see how other educators leverage the information gathered and how we use it to improve students’ learning.


Duhigg, C. (2012, February 18). How Companies Learn Your Secrets. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html

1 thought on “What to do with Big Data?

  1. Hi Nan,
    I enjoy reading about your personal experience with LMS. Being able to immediately see areas of weakness in students will help educators tremendously. Students also enjoys immediate feedback to help steer them in the right direction. It would also be nice if LMS incorporates some sort of graphical representation for students to see how they are progressing in the class and on a particular unit. Sounds like you already utilize these features to help your students. Good job!

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