Quick: ask yourself what some of the most necessary belongings in your life are. You might say your car, or your computer, or your phone. But did you ever think it could be your data?

We’re living in an age when everything about us is cached in databases all over: our medical records, our browsing history, and even our phone calls are logged in massive repositories, sometimes only accessible to companies or the government. Companies use this data to predict your future behavior and make recommendations to you. If you enjoy Netflix or shop on Amazon, you know how well these companies can analyze your data to make suggestions that anticipate your choices.

Currently, much educational data is either going uncollected, unanalyzed, or unshared. But what if we allowed individuals to use their data to better define their own educational pathways?
First, it only seems right that students become more empowered to use their own metrics to make better decisions about what’s best for them. Much like there’s a growing movement in the healthcare industry to allow patients better access to their own health records in order to improve health outcomes, so students should be allowed to access educational data so that they might see more profound trends invisible at first glance (of course, the data must be collected first).

This collection would allow students to make their own best decisions on what programs to enroll in, what courses to take, and even what careers to decide on. Predicative trends in their educational and employment history could even be useful indicators of future earnings.

Giving students control of their own data would also help them see where they need improvement, and instead of having the educational solutions to student needs confined to institutional owners of the data, greater accessibility to data could spawn an associated industry of technological services (for example, mobile apps) which would address student needs.

Lastly, with so much of the news centered around data hacks these days, individuals and companies are understandably scrambling to find solutions to how to best protect data stored on the cloud. Data storage decoupled from a massive database model and instead put into users hands might be one way to empower users with their own data security solutions that they are most comfortable with.

In tandem with greater user accessibility to data, what the educational ecosystem needs now is a standard way to condense every sort of student data point (educational and work history, standardized test scores, etc.) into one verified “employability score” that gains wide circulation with employers and other schools. Allowing every student to present a holistic, data-driven portrait of themselves to employers is a superior way of doing recruiting and hiring, rather than depending on guesswork to assess an applicant. Once students are empowered with their own data, they can have more confidence to make accurate and wise choices on their career pathways.

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