As colleges continue to use big data more frequently, the long-term effects are yet to be fully understood. Major institutions and software companies see high tech programs as a means to an end in predicting the foreseeable outcome of students at colleges and universities. Though, this may to some extent be true, a growing number of students believe big data may be used to classify and designate them before they have a chance to get their academic careers off the ground. Students are concerned that data will depersonalize the student teacher relationship, and push them down a predestined path based off of a computer’s algorithm and not a student’s individual achievements.
Students from Michigan’s Macomb Community College raised concerns about these predictive programs recently at EduCon 2.9, an education and technology conference in Philadelphia. As reported by Hechinger Report, the panel of students from Macomb CC feel that existing stereotypes are already in place, and many students are not ready to trust the new, digital systems. “We don’t know who is choosing it and who is pulling the strings,” said Luis Manzano-Anzures, a student at Michigan’s Macomb Community College.
Proponents of big data’s predictive analytics argue that the programs are in place for the benefits of students. They say the information is there to identify students who are at risk of failure and provide support for those students. Students are still skeptical, asking what happens if analytical data is turned against them. Last year at Mount St. Mary’s University, their president made news after he proposed using their system’s data to find struggling students and “drown the bunnies” as he phrased it, to make them leave.
Students are worried that a similar type of program may be put into place. Hechinger Report concluded that the students at EduCon expressed concern that they won’t get to see the data being stored, and that computers may be overly predicative when it comes to academic ability. Many students see Ed tech systems that don’t take human relationships and outside influences into account. If a student is struggling because of personal reasons, predictive technology may not take that into consideration. For now, especially at community colleges where digital resources are limited and students and faculty concentrate on working class realities, digital technology may create a system that is unreliable at predicting the future of students.