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Skills Route shows the way for next generation of education open data apps

A service bringing together a unique collection of education and career related open data sets has won the Education Open Data Challenge. Skills Route, a new product from MIME Consulting, is a service for young people designed to show them for the first time how they are likely to fare on their preferred course at local schools and further education providers.

Impressively, the team has been able to link the projected performance at your preferred school with where you might end up afterwards, as well as what your long term earning potential might be. This is the first step towards the holy grail of data-driven career’s advice which would ultimately help to give young people a sense of how their choices at 16 might have a longer term impact on their ambitions later in life, such as the job they want to be doing and how much they want to be earning. How many of us might have made different decisions about which courses to take and where to study if we had access to a tool like Skills Route when we were 16?

The product developed by the Skills Route team sits at the forefront of a range of new products and services being created from education open data. The most high profile of these is the tool developed in Boston, but there are also similar projects in Holland and Tanzania (profiled by the Open Knowledge Open Education working group). Most of these apps, however, have focused on the choice that parents have in relation to the school for their children. However, Skills Route expands the relevance of these apps by aiming at both parents and young people. In addition, it brings a level of personalisation which has so far been missing in many of the open data tools, allowing young people to see how they are likely to do at different institutions on the basis of their grades so far. At the moment there is no easy way to make this sort of judgement as the most readily available data relates to headline performance figures at school level only.

Interestingly, Skills Route has managed to incorporate this level of personalisation by using open data rather than accessing record level data. Although, as part of the Education Open Data Challenge, we trialled secure access for parents of the records of their children in National Pupil Database, the team has managed to use currently available open data to drive the personalisation in the product. From an open data perspective this highlights how useful aggregate data can still be, which is often a criticism of open data from those who argue for the greater utility of secure access to record-level data.

The other finalists in the Challenge were Illustreets for Education, an intelligent engine which creates a tailored set of school recommendations based on a child’s characteristics and past performance, and a product codenamed ‘In Context - Brenda’ from Upreach, which was designed to help recruiters and universities understand greater contextual information about the performance of candidates who they were choosing between.

The Skills Route team will be using the prize money to further develop their product with a planned Beta launch later in the year. A working Skills Route prototype is currently available. Please use the contact form at www.skillsroute.com to request access to try out this early version. If you’re a school who is interested in being one of the first to trial this product please get in touch with [email protected]

Images courtesy of MIME Consulting


Ed Parkes

Ed Parkes

Ed Parkes

Senior Programme Manager

Ed worked in the Innovation Lab in Nesta, as the Senior Programme Manager for the Open Data Challenge Series, which was run in partnership with the Open Data Institute.

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