MIDAS Seminar

Personalizing Education at Scale

Tim McKay, Ph.D.Arthur F Thurnau Professor of Physics, Astronomy, and EducationUniversity of Michigan

MIDAS gratefully acknowledges Northrop Grumman Corporation for its generous support of the MIDAS Seminar Series.
During the 20th century, public higher education exploded in scale. By necessity, this expansion was achieved using industrial approaches – treating students in uniform ways as if they were interchangeable parts. In this century, information technology will enable us to personalize education at scale; gathering, digesting, and acting on detailed, evolving portraits of each student's background, interests, goals, and accomplishments. Many data science challenges must be overcome to achieve this goal. These include merging diverse data streams while protecting student privacy, designing effective measures of student learning, establishing causal inference, extracting meaning from text, video, and activity data, characterizing networks, and constructing adaptive, automated systems for tailoring student interactions. In this talk, Professor McKay will describe the rapid evolution of what we know about our students, and consider the student record of the future. Professor McKay believes this will include more direct evidence of the goals of a liberal education: intellectual breadth, disciplinary depth, integrated effort, breadth of experience, social and professional networks of connection, and more. Professor McKay will also discuss the work of Michigan's new Digital Innovation Greenhouse; a team of faculty innovators, software developers, and student interns which is using data to personalize education at scale through several major project initiatives.
Professor McKay is a data scientist, with extensive and various experience drawing inference from large data sets. In astrophysics, his main research tools have been the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Dark Energy Survey, and the simulations which support them both. His team uses these tools to probe the growth and nature of cosmic structure, as well as, the expansion history of the Universe, especially through studies of galaxy clusters. He has also studied astrophysical transients as part of the Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment.
In education research, Professor McKay works to understand and improve postsecondary student outcomes using the rich, extensive, and complex digital data produced in the course of educating students in the 21st century. In 2011, he created the E2Coach computer tailored support system, and in 2014, launched the REBUILD project, a college-wide effort to increase the use of evidence-based methods in introductory STEM courses. In 2015, he launched the Digital Innovation Greenhouse, an education technology accelerator within the UM Office of Digital Education and Innovation.

Sponsored by


Faculty Host

Alfred Hero