Social media data analytics: How to apply them in education

To date, social media data anaytics have mostly been used to help marketers refine their pitches as they get a sense of how they are perceived by the public. When properly processed and analyzed, the data can also lead to a wealth of insights to influence future curriciulums and lesson plans.

So far, social media data remains largely untapped in the education industry. At last April’s #EduAnalyticsDC conference, there was some discussion about social media data analytics but no serious proposals, according to my interview with Bill Rand, director of University of Maryland Center for Complexity in Business.

“There is some resistance in educational administration to thinking that a valuable signal,” Rand explained. “There isn’t really research being done in that space to the extent that there should be because of that resistance.”

Rand conducted an experiment in which he monitored Twitter for four months in the spring to glean insights about the college decision-making process for high school juniors and seniors. Rand looked at 57 keywords including #collegedecision and #collegeopportunity, which netted some 10 million tweets. After rooting out the false positives, Rand narrowed the number to 1.1 million tweets for 25 keywords.

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After running sentiment analysis, Rand found that “by far, most of the conversations around this topic were fairly negative” and indicated stress or uncertainty. The most positive tweets centered around being accepted to a college or referred to the community a college offered. The most negative referred to college visits and the food offered at the college cafeterias. Other insights included positive tweets related to college acceptance to LGBT lifestyles.

As a public network, Facebook and Twitter make the most sense for data analysis in the grade-school education space.

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