From left: Mark Easton, IBM Software Group; Cameron Art, IBM Global Business Services; Harris Pastides, President, USC; Gene Warr, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, USC 

Dec 12 2014

The Future for Higher Learning Could Be Powered by Big Data

Research into student analytics at the newly established Center for Applied Innovation at the University of South Carolina could lay the groundwork for the next wave of personalized education.

A brain trust for higher education analytics and industry solutions is coalescing at the University of South Carolina, thanks to a partnership between the school, IBM and Fluor Corp.

The university and the two companies are forming the Center for Applied Innovation, which will provide “tailored IT curricula and advanced analytic techniques for personalized learning,” according to a Nov. 21 news release from IBM.

“Through this collaboration with IBM and Fluor, USC students will have unique opportunities to learn both in and outside the classroom and further hone their IT skills,” USC President Harris Pastides says in the release.

“By using advanced technologies and data analytics the collaboration will help students, educators and others in higher education make intelligent decisions that improve the student experience and enhance student achievement.”

The center will harness Big Data and analytics technology from IBM Research’s work with Gwinnet County Public Schools in Georgia to create customized curriculum for students. The technology groups students based on their patterns of learning and can “predict performance and learning needs, and align specific content and successful teaching techniques,” according to IBM.

“Of all the projects, this has the most potential to change the college experience and within 15 years dramatically transform the curriculum,” Bill Hogue, USC's vice president for information technology and chief information officer, says in a news release.

Fluor Corporation, a global engineering company, will serve as a strategic adviser for the center, according to the release.

The center will be housed in existing USC buildings, with plans to move into a new office building in 2016, according to USC.

The Center for Applied Innovation is IBM's latest foray into higher education technology solutions. At EDUCAUSE 2014 in October, IBM announced its plans to integrate Watson Discovery Advisor, the company’s cognitive computing system, into the classroom.

Watson-powered “intelligent tutors" could aid educators and students by paring down the task of data analysis, Michael D. King, IBM's vice president for global education industry, told attendees.