Forbes, Bruce Upbin, Feb 22, 2012
... "Education is the world's largest data industry, by far," says Jose Ferreira, who knows this because he runs a firm called Knewton that's building what could become the world's most valuable repository of the ways people learn.
Knewton, started four years ago in New York City by the 43-year-old Ferreira, builds its software into online classes that watch students' every move: scores, speed, accuracy, delays, keystrokes, click-streams and drop-offs.
"We're physically collecting thousands of data points per student per day," says Ferreira. Students go at their own pace, and the software continuously adapts to challenge and cajole them to learn based on their individual learning style. As individual students are correlated to the behaviors of thousands of other students, Knewton can make between 5 million and 10 million refinements to its data model every day. Psychometricians use similar principles to build standardized exams, but Knewton harvests way more data than testmakers ever will. Someday it will know what kids will get on the SAT, so they won't have to take it.
"Online education," says Ferreira, "is on the cusp of massive change, and only 100 cognoscenti know about it."
A passel of other tech companies, such as Aleks, Grockit, Blackboard, Coursekit and 2tor, are also working to speed up education's shift online. In higher ed, growth is already apace. The number of college students enrolled in at least one online course has risen from 1.7 million to 6 million since 2002. ...
Five thousand freshmen at Arizona State University enrolled in Knewton-powered Pearson courses for remedial math in August. Half of the students finished four weeks early. Another quarter finished early enough to move into regular freshman math. The portion of students withdrawing from the courses fell from 13% to 6%, and pass rates rose from 66% to 75%.