- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- the IEEE 46th Annual Computers, Software, and Applications Conference (COMPSAC'22)
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Machine learning (ML) provides a powerful framework for the analysis of high‐dimensional datasets by modelling complex relationships, often encountered in modern data with many variables, cases and potentially non‐linear effects. The impact of ML methods on research and practical applications in the educational sciences is still limited, but continuously grows, as larger and more complex datasets become available through massive open online courses (MOOCs) and large‐scale investigations. The educational sciences are at a crucial pivot point, because of the anticipated impact ML methods hold for the field. To provide educational researchers with an elaborate introduction to the topic, we provide an instructional summary of the opportunities and challenges of ML for the educational sciences, show how a look at related disciplines can help learning from their experiences, and argue for a philosophical shift in model evaluation. We demonstrate how the overall quality of data analysis in educational research can benefit from these methods and show how ML can play a decisive role in the validation of empirical models. Specifically, we (1) provide an overview of the types of data suitable for ML and (2) give practical advice for the application of ML methods. In each section, we provide analytical examples and reproducible R code. Also, we provide an extensive Appendix on ML‐based applications for education. This instructional summary will help educational scientists and practitioners to prepare for the promises and threats that come with the shift towards digitisation and large‐scale assessment in education.
Context and implications Rationale for this study
In 2020, the worldwide SARS‐COV‐2 pandemic forced the educational sciences to perform a rapid paradigm shift with classrooms going online around the world—a hardly novel but now strongly catalysed development. In the context of data‐driven education, this paper demonstrates that the widespread adoption of machine learning techniques is central for the educational sciences and shows how these methods will become crucial tools in the collection and analysis of data and in concrete educational applications. Helping to leverage the opportunities and to avoid the common pitfalls of machine learning, this paper provides educators with the theoretical, conceptual and practical essentials.
Why the new findings matter
The process of teaching and learning is complex, multifaceted and dynamic. This paper contributes a seminal resource to highlight the digitisation of the educational sciences by demonstrating how new machine learning methods can be effectively and reliably used in research, education and practical application.
Implications for educational researchers and policy makers
The progressing digitisation of societies around the globe and the impact of the SARS‐COV‐2 pandemic have highlighted the vulnerabilities and shortcomings of educational systems. These developments have shown the necessity to provide effective educational processes that can support sometimes overwhelmed teachers to digitally impart knowledge on the plan of many governments and policy makers. Educational scientists, corporate partners and stakeholders can make use of machine learning techniques to develop advanced, scalable educational processes that account for individual needs of learners and that can complement and support existing learning infrastructure. The proper use of machine learning methods can contribute essential applications to the educational sciences, such as (semi‐)automated assessments, algorithmic‐grading, personalised feedback and adaptive learning approaches. However, these promises are strongly tied to an at least basic understanding of the concepts of machine learning and a degree of data literacy, which has to become the standard in education and the educational sciences.
Demonstrating both the promises and the challenges that are inherent to the collection and the analysis of large educational data with machine learning, this paper covers the essential topics that their application requires and provides easy‐to‐follow resources and code to facilitate the process of adoption.