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Partnering with STEM educators to foster innovative teaching.

3 Ways to Turn the Bird’s Nest of Big Data into Your Most Powerful Tool

Big data is all the talk these days, regardless of what sector you are in; but just collecting data doesn’t provide insight.  The real challenge is in the analysis of that collected information, and often this analysis is left to the end user. Given the size and complexity of these data sets, thoughtful analysis is not always done.

Knowing the number of people with physics backgrounds who are reading this blog, chances are you are imminently qualified to perform such data analysis. But in today’s rushed environment, who has the time to commit to such a thing?

The Expert TA team realizes this and has made it part of our mission to help physics educators unravel the tangled nest of data into something that can help propel your classroom to the next level.  Big data is critical to Expert TA, and the foundation of what we do well. This is why we have spent the last five years refining Expert TA Analytics, by utilizing the ever-growing expanse of student data within our online homework system. Through this process, we help you personally harness the power of big data in three distinct ways:

    1. Highly detailed student grade and usage information is captured in a single repository, ready for analysis.
    2. Once analyzed, the data is distilled into easily readable and shareable reports that provide meaningful information to educators at all levels.
    3. Our software developers can team with instructors and PER experts to build custom tools to study specific aspects of how students best learn physics.
    4. BONUS REASON! At Expert TA, we anonymize this data* and use it internally to help improve our product. For example, we routinely data mine all incorrect answers submitted for every question in our system to identify the most common mistakes that students make. We then take those common mistakes and have physics experts write specific Socratic feedback that then becomes available to the next students using the software. Our partial credit grading system is better because of big data.

As you can see, big data is at the core of Expert TA’s business, and analytics will be a recurring theme in this blog.

While stories about individual student and instructor interactions are nice, in general we are more interested in discussions based on statistically significant data sets rather than anecdotal evidence.  We believe the greatest power to transform teaching lies in the truths told by big data. We are constantly looking for instructors to partner with on new studies to continue uncovering how we can all do better when it comes to teaching students physics. If you are interested in being one of these partners, please contact us and let us know.

*Privacy is of the utmost importance when it comes to student grades, and we take this very seriously.  Expert TA is FERPA compliant and encrypts and stores data in such a way that students’ grades and personally identifiable information are never “joined” and made viewable to any unauthorized individual.




Formed from the belief that a homework system should help instructors teach and students learn, Expert TA harnesses the power of technology to encourage practice during homework, while also giving meaningful feedback to both instructors and students. The Expert TA blog was created to serve as a hub of information to help educators track and discuss trends in education, software and student performance. 




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