WPI Professor is Elected President of New Educational Data Mining Society

The society will promote the emerging discipline through a conference series, a journal, and the development of a research community.
October 17, 2011

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Ryan S.J.D. Baker, assistant professor of social science and policy studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), has been elected the inaugural president of International Educational Data Mining Society. The organization was recently formed by a vote of the steering committee of the International Working Group on Educational Data Mining.

Educational data mining (EDM) is an emerging field that involves analyzing large quantities of data gathered in educational settings or with educational technology with the goals of advancing the quality and effectiveness of education, measuring and predicting student performance, and supporting research that can lead to improvements in educational practices. The society will support collaboration and scientific progress in the new discipline through the organization of the annual International Conference on Educational Data Mining, publication of the peer-reviewed, open-access Journal of Educational Data Mining, and the development of community resources to support the sharing of data and techniques.

Michel Desmarais of Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, Canada, who serves as treasurer of the Educational Data Mining Society, said Baker is a leading figure in the EDM community.

"He played a key role in the emergence of the field and in the structuring of all activities since 2000, from the initial workshops that grew into a full international conference, to the dedicated journal (JEDM) and the EDM Society," he said. "The choice of Ryan as founding president was all too obvious, given his leadership and his long list of contributions."

The journal and the conference, which has drawn between 80 and 100 attendees each year since its founding in 2006, were established by the International Working Group. According to Baker, a critical goal of the new society will be to increase the sustainability of the conference series and the journal, while also promoting the value of data mining methods, which have enriched fields such as biology and physics, to the broader education research community.

"This development cements WPI's reputation as one of the top universities in the world in the discipline of educational data mining," he said. "Colleagues around the world are aware of WPI's prominent role in creating EDM, and of the university's well-established research programs in this field and other areas of the learning sciences and technologies."

Baker said his goals as president include building membership and improving sustainability. "I'd like to see the society establish a stable membership of 150 or more and for the EDM conference to grow significantly in the next four years while maintaining the world-class quality that EDM research is known for."

Educational data mining is an integral element in the university's new graduate program in learning sciences and technologies, which was established last year. One of fewer than 10 such programs in the nation, it is aimed at addressing a pressing national need for enhanced K-12 education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The interdisciplinary program, which awards Master of Science and PhD degrees, is offered by faculty members in the university's departments of Computer Science, Mathematical Sciences, and Social Science and Policy Studies.

Neil Heffernan, associate professor of computer science and co-director of the graduate program, and Joseph Beck, assistant professor of computer science, are also involved with the new International Educational Data Mining Society, as is Arnon Hershkovitz, a post-doctoral fellow in social science and policy studies.