ACE to Launch Global Data Consortium of the ‘Student Experience’—Powered by AI

The nation’s umbrella higher education association hopes to harness AI to illuminate and improve the student experience.

The American Council on Education announced plans this week to launch a Global Data Consortium in 2025. The nonprofit initiative aims to pool data across institutions worldwide and use AI to make sense of that data in a way that drives student success.

“We suffer from both too much data and too little access to those data,” Ted Mitchell, president of ACE, said in announcing the consortium. “And we think the AI revolution is an opportunity to solve that problem.”

The consortium would launch with records on 30-35M students worldwide if all the organizations that have committed to the effort move forward. And about two-thirds of those organizations–namely colleges and universities, but also testing companies and the like–would be in the United States.

The big idea: Higher education and the testing industry collect reams of data on students, but even at the most sophisticated institutions, that data can be hard to parse. And it is only rarely shared, beyond standardized and often balky reports like IPEDS required by the federal government. The National Student Clearinghouse comes closest, but primarily collects transcript data.

AI has presented a big opportunity to improve on the status quo, Mitchell says. And the consortium aims to both transform the use of data—and get more institutions to think creatively about how they can use and shape AI.

“You can start to get insights you weren’t even seeking.”

—Paul LeBlanc, president of SNHU

The details: The consortium was built in conjunction with an AI study team at Southern New Hampshire University, headed by the institution’s renowned president, Paul LeBlanc, and George Siemens, a pioneer in online learning and creator of one of the first MOOCs.

The new consortium, Mitchell says, will pull in a broader range of information than existing datasets, potentially on everything from students’ co-curricular experiences—internships, work, student leadership—to when and how they reach out for support like tutoring or mental health counseling.

“We envision the student experience being the dataset,” Mitchell says.

The consortium will create a centralized yet locally-controlled data mesh, allowing colleges and universities to contribute institution-level datasets for collaborative projects driven by AI. By tapping into this shared data pool, participants will get a window into the broader student experience and can develop AI capabilities that may otherwise be unfeasible for smaller institutions lacking resources.

ACE is looking for more institutions interested in joining up and will be soliciting feedback on the model, including its technical architecture, security, and privacy standards, for the next six to eight weeks. The launch is expected sometime next year.

“The data consortium is an on-ramp opportunity for institutions to start developing capabilities with AI,” Siemens says. “We want to be producers not consumers of the AI landscape.”

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