The Good News About Learning By the Numbers

In astronomy, the object of study is heavenly bodies. Focusing telescopes on the moon, for example, scientists collect data to gain insights into its characteristics. In education, the object of study is student learning. But until digital means of gathering data were introduced with education software — like reaching the dark side of the moon — little data emerged directly from the classroom, the very site where institutional learning occurs. Unless a professor videotapes an on-campus class, what happens there is rarely captured, except perhaps by those students who take a lot of notes. 

Online, however, nearly every action and interaction can be captured. 

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