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The Future of Education? Algorithms and Behavioral Analytics

9 Jul

Algorithmic_CEO_FINALThere is a lot of talk going around about the digital take over–the rise of the algorithms, and the impact they are having on the world of work. While that is a real consideration, the core of this conversation, for some, is education—and the massive need for an educational overhaul that provides utility to human capital in this human vs machine workforce debate.

These days, there is a demand for a different type of education than in years gone by. We’re moving into an era of computer science and engineering, but educational institutions are scrambling. There isn’t enough Faculty to teach the thousands of students beating down university doors. and other MOOCs are rising to the occasion, offering educational resources to students willing to put in the time for a certification outside of the standard brick and mortal collegiate forum.

There is value here. But there are also challenges. In a classroom setting an educator can (attempt to) keep tabs on the student population, noting who is connecting with the material, who is engaged, who is struggling but trying. In the world of MOOCs where 43,000 students are signed up for a single course, there is no realistic way an educator can provide personalized attention to each student. With abysmal completion rates—6.5%–educators and researchers are scrambling to find ways to engage this new population of learners.

MIT and Harvard, among others are working to enrich the scope of learning for the online student population. Why are students failing to complete an online educational course—even if it’s offered for free from a top University?  Could it be that, debatably, some of the best educators in the world are simply inefficient in an online forum?  Studies are quick to point out the flaws of the student population. They study less frequently than students in a classroom setting. But Why? And how to we improve it?

I’ve been thinking about educators as account managers.  Each student is a portfolio with unlimited potential in the marketplace.  So could we focus on making the right connections between account manager educators and the students they are managing?  Companies like Mattersight provide revolutionary behavioral analytics insights that can match customers to the best representative for their communication style and need. RedOwl provides information on changes in behavior patterns, proactively notifying an organization of internal risks. Imagine the implications of these software platforms aligned for educational development.

Sites like Zaption are moving MOOCs into more interactive platforms, quizzing as it goes along. Imagine if in addition to an interactive platform we were able to capture behavior patterns indicating learning, or confusion, what if we were able to match the student with the best educator or advisor for their learning style?

Think about it.

A student is no longer just watching a video alone, half grasping the concept and moving on. The system catches on that something hasn’t entirely clicked and provides supplemental training, in a different way–slowed down, back to basics, whatever it takes. It goes over a topic until the light bulb moment is captured.

What would that do for student engagement? What would that do to completion rates? What would that do to our future when all of these bright minds are grasping and building on ideas that could move our world of work into the next generation?

These are the things that keep me up at night.


Be a Better Neighbor; Be a Better Coworker

14 Jan


A few days ago my neighbor came over with homemade goodies to share. I was struggling through a fitness challenge. It was a thoughtful gesture, by a genuinely thoughtful person. Seriously, her family is that “borrow a cup of sugar anytime” group that makes you feel a little guilty. I was touched, and slightly embarrassed that she caught me looking like a drowned rat, but she didn’t judge. It started a conversation about her own personal struggle to get back into fitness.  She’s the kind of neighbor who makes me want to be a better neighbor. Seriously.

I can’t remember the last time I brought her something just because. Did she really know how much her thoughtfulness meant to a jaded homeowner like me?

All this got me to thinking: neighbors are a lot like coworkers.  What type of person makes you want to be a better coworker? I’ve got a few thoughts:

1.  Be conscientiousness. This is one of those buzz words, but if you want to be a good coworker, remember that the things that others as you to do may be top priority for them. The quality and care you take with a request shows them how much you value what matters to them. If they feel you valued, they are more likely to value what matters to you.  Reciprocity at it’s finest!

2. Hold the judgement, please. We are all struggling through something. Sometimes it’s a workout, sometimes it’s getting a spreadsheet to behave. I’ve found my team mates are more forgiving  when they don’t perceive negative scrutiny and judgement as they work through their own situations.  Everyone’s challenge is different. At least they’re working on it.

3. Take courteous initiative. Think of others. We all know coworkers who have large looming deadlines, or just a lot on their plate in a given week. Do something nice–drop off a snack, offer to run a report across the hall. Be the kind of person  you would want helping you.

None of this is rocket science, but if we all remember these things, the office might be a little bit kinder.

Be the hero you wish you’d had.