Artificial Intelligence Could Help Colleges Better Plan What Courses They Should Offer

Jeffrey R. Young at EdSsurge: Big data could help community colleges better predict how industries are changing so they can tailor their IT courses and other programs. After all, if Amazon can forecast what consumers will buy and prestock items in their warehouses to meet the expected demand, why can’t colleges do the same thing when planning their curricula, using predictive analytics to make sure new degree or certificates programs are started just in time for expanding job opportunities?

That’s the argument made by Gordon Freedman, president of the nonprofit National Laboratory for Education Transformation. He’s part of a new center that will do just that, by building a data warehouse that brings together up-to-date information on what skills employers need and what colleges currently offer—and then applying artificial intelligence to attempt to predict when sectors or certain employment needs might be expanding.

He calls the approach “opportunity engineering,” and the center boasts some heavy-hitting players to assist in the efforts, including the University of Chicago, the San Diego Supercomputing Center and Argonne National Laboratory. It’s called the National Center for Opportunity Engineering & Analysis.

Ian Roark, vice president of workforce development at Pima Community College in Arizona, is among those eager for this kind of “opportunity engineering” to emerge.

He explains when colleges want to start new programs, they face a long haul—it takes time to develop a new curriculum, put it through an internal review, and then send it through an accreditor….

Other players are already trying to translate the job market into a giant data set to spot trends. LinkedIn sits on one of the biggest troves of data, with hundreds of millions of job profiles, and ambitions to create what it calls the “economic graph” of the economy. But not everyone is on LinkedIn, which attracts mainly those in white-collar jobs. And companies such as Burning Glass Technologies have scanned hundreds of thousands of job listings and attempt to provide real-time intelligence on what employers say they’re looking for. Those still don’t paint the full picture, Freedman argues, such as what jobs are forming at companies.

“We need better information from the employer, better information from the job seeker and better information from the college, and that’s what we’re going after,” Freedman says…(More)”.