Apollo Group uses data to go back to basic teaching

Since moving its back-end systems to enable the interactions with cloud, data, mobile, and social, Apollo Group has been able to bring a personalised teaching experience to online learning for its students.

US-based higher education for working adults provider, Apollo Group, has transformed teaching and learning back to its original form by leveraging data and analytics to observe how it can improve its courses.

Apollo Group CIO Mike Sajor said the art of teaching and learning has come full circle after 500 years because of third platform technology.

"Initially, learning was delivered by apprentices who worked with a master one-on-one. Then more learners existed than there were not enough masters to teach them, so that created classrooms, and arguably it's a less efficient way of teaching than apprenticeship," explained Sajor at EMC World 2014.

"Fast forward a few hundred years, there's e-learning where content is consumed online and students are given assessments to see if they understood the content, and that's arguably less efficient.

"Now we're going full circle with the advent of predictive analytics around student behaviour where the machine is able to return the apprenticeship and master learning experience, and deliver specific experiences to each student helping them the way they want to learn."

Sajor said leveraging technology becomes even more important when there are 250,000 active learners at their education institution, University of Phoenix, where it could potentially become a mass data problem when trying to observe student learning.

"Our platform has been designed to observe every aspect and we have cognitive learning scientists that understand dynamic learning and what insights to look for. We turn to those insights, which are extrapolated from the data, to an intervention, such as something as simple as giving a different reading assignment or something a little more complex. So we make those decisions based on those insights," he said.

"Now we are able to automate that and imagine the cognitive scientists creating insight out of that data at an increasingly fast pace, they're learning how students learn."

Sajor said the process of learning about the students puts them at the centre of all the decisions Apollo Group makes.

"Our company believes everyone deserves a college education, so we cater and reach out to adults that are working but want to find a career that will move them forward," he said.

"Technology underlines the platform that allows us to do that, so we are there 24/7 when they want to make the time to study a little, whether that's early in the morning, during spare time in the day, or before bed. So we're there in ways traditional forms education can never be."

The feedback has also been positive from the 35,000 faculty members.

"The faculty keeps saying we're no longer facilitating a class, rather we're able to teach it, and that's because the advantages of having a platform that offers analytics instantly to ensure the experience for the students is elevated," Sajor said.

The process that Apollo Group realised aligns with IDC's prediction that by 2020 one third of all businesses will be completely transformed to the "third platform".

The research firm also believes the third platform will cannibalise the second platform, with expectations that the third platform will grow between 40-50 percent this year at expense of the second platform.

"The third platform enables innovative intelligent industry solutions, but what's really important about it is it will change business processes," said IDC vice president Vernon Turner.

Turner also noted the attributes of the third cloud will help businesses raise their integrity, reliability, and resilience, while allowing them to be innovative through the interaction of cloud, social, mobile, and big data.