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Forms of analysis in education – statewide and global systems – are increasingly governed by the huge size of data sets in the order of exabytes (EB 1018 1 EB = 1000000000000000000B = 1018bytes = 1000 petabytes=I billion gigabytes) that present problems of data capture, storage, analysis and presentation. Data sets have grown in size because information is collected by ubiquitous information-sensing mobile devices, aerial sensory technologies and global digital systems. Serious questions emerge concerning who should own and have access to these big data initiatives, Another issue concerns the fact that we know little about ‘underlying empirical micro-processes that lead to the emergence of the[se] typical network characteristics of Big Data’.[1] Some analysts are suggesting that big data in online learning will provide the predictive tools they need to improve learning outcomes for personalized learning: ‘By designing a curriculum that collects data at every step of the student learning process, universities can address student needs with customized modules, assignments, feedback and learning trees in the curriculum that will promote better and richer learning.’[2]

This special issue of Policy Futures in Education ( will investigate big data in education and learning analytics. Possible topics include:

– Big data and education policy
– Big data and the implications for education research
– Big data and edu-business
– Big data and schooling in democracies
– Big data and knowledge production
– Big data and school systems
– Big data and the purposes of schooling

‘It is not new that educational institutions collect and analyse data for predicting and intervening in children’s educational performance…What is new is digitising, meta-tagging and aggregating that data with many other data sets, making possible new connections, predictions and diagnoses.’ Understanding Education through Big Data, Lyndsay Grant, October 25, 2013 (

‘The emerging research communities in educational data mining and learning analytics are developing methods for mining and modeling the increasing amounts of fine-grained data becoming available about learners.’ Coursera – Ryan Baker

‘Big data is the foundation on which education can reinvent its business model and build the coalition of governments, businesses, and social entrepreneurs that can bring together the evidence, innovation and resources to make lifelong learning a reality for all. So the next educational superpower might be the one that can combine the hierarchy of institutions with the power of collaborative information flows and social networks.’ Big Data and PISA, Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD’s Secretary-General (

Editors: Michael A. Peters (; Robert Lingard (, Tina Besley ( and Jillian Blackmore (

Please send expressions of interest including a title, abstract and key texts to one of the editors by April 4, 2014. Deadline for full papers is October 10, 2014 for publication in late 2015. The Journal’s information for authors can be found at

[1] C. Snijders, U. Matzat & U.-D. Reips (2012) ‘Big Data’: big gaps of knowledge in the field of Internet, International Journal of Internet Science, 7, 1‑5.




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