Open Data for College Affordability and Better Student Outcomes

The Obama Administration recently launched the Education Data Initiative to help students and their families benefit from innovation enabled by open data from the US government and other sources.  By working to make education data more available and useful to entrepreneurs and innovators, we’re confident that new products and services will continue to emerge to help American families make informed educational decisions and improve student outcomes.

The Education Data Initiative is part of a series of Open Data Initiatives—other ones include energy, health, and public safety—in which the Administration is working to help catalyze the development of innovative apps and services fueled by open data, while rigorously protecting privacy and confidentiality.

This week, staff from the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and the George Washington School of Business held an Education “Data Jam” in Washington, DC.  A diverse set of educational technology experts and entrepreneurs gathered to brainstorm new applications, products, services, and product features that could be developed using open educational data to drive increases in student success.

The MyData Initiative, which encourages schools, software vendors, and others who hold student data to make it available to parents and students in electronic, machine-readable formats, was an important focus of the workshop discussion.  Allowing students to download their own data enables them to maintain their personal learning profile, access customized learning experiences, and make informed school selection and financial aid choices.  At the workshop, the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid unveiled the MyData files it will be launching for student aid application (FAFSA) and disbursement (NSLDS) data downloads. Students will soon be able to retrieve their own student aid data in machine-readable format, which they could then share with online services that can harness the data to provide customized assistance with finding scholarships, choosing schools, or repaying loans. 

The Education Data Jam also focused on Federal education data sets now available at education.data.gov.  Publicly available data about education outcomes can help fuel the next generation of customized services and tools for students, teachers, and school districts.

Data from the Learning Registry, a new open-source technical system to help educators and learners use and share digital content, was also a major subject of the brainstorm.  Developers interested in connecting student performance or teacher preparation tools to appropriate content can leverage the information stored in this crowd-sourced platform.

In wrapping up the event, we challenged participants to collaborate on building tools or services using the data demonstrated at the Data Jam.  Groups who successfully implement their ideas in the next 90 days will have an opportunity to potentially be featured at a follow-on event—an “Education Datapalooza”—that will celebrate private-sector education innovation fueled by open data.  The challenge to build innovative education tools and services, for potential demonstration at the Datapalooza, is open to everyone.  Information about the data sets presented at the Data Jam is available here.  And if you’d like more details about the Education Dataplaooza or if you have an idea or an example of a private-sector innovation (a product, service, website, app, or feature) that uses open education data, please send an email to EDTech@ed.gov.

Todd Park is the US Chief Technology Officer, and Jim Shelton is the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

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