Going beyond books: Barnes and Noble takes a dive into predictive analytics

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One of the largest book -selling chains is seeing a sales slump that caused a leadership shake-up. We are talking about Barnes and Noble, that recently appointed Demos Parneros as its new CEO amid dwindling sales report. The mandate is clear — identifying the reason of less customer traffic and reversing the sales trend.  Amid disappointing fiscal reports and a sales slump, the venerable publisher has turned to big data to drive big gains.

According to Kanuj Malhotra, Chief Operating Officer, Digital Education, BNED. “People don’t think of Barnes & Noble Education as a technology company”.

Recently the publisher took a significant step to introduce predictive analytics services to universities with the digital education consortium Unizin. This deal with Unizin marks the Fortune 500 Inc’s pivot to a data-centric organization.


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Earlier in March 2016, BNED snapped up software start-up LoudCloud with an aim to score a group of 22 potential new clients, including Indiana University, Pennsylvania State University, and the State University System of Florida, among others.

BNED counters plateauing sales with LoudCloud buy-out

With Amazon on one side dominating the online sales and a resurgence of independent book stores, the retailer that saw three chief executive exits in the last three years grabbed up LoudCloud. With this acquisition, BNED diversified its offerings and placed itself as a leader in the vast market for ed tech products and services. LoudCloud provides the necessary platform and tools required to effectively compete for digital courseware, OER content, and services sales.

LoudCloud Systems  provides a sophisticated digital platform, along with analytics to its clients in higher education, the for-profit sector, and K-12 segment. “LoudCloud’s impressive portfolio of products and strong operating team will enable us to address the growing and diverse demands of our clients in the dynamically changing education industry,” shares Malhotra.  

LoudSight, the analytics arm provides competency based courseware platform, a learning analytics platform and services, an eReading product, and a learning management system (LMS). The platform captures and analyzes key behavioral and performance metrics from students, helping advisers and faculty members intervene with a student who shows warning signs of failing an important class. LoudCloud leverages the use of real-time analytics and a comprehensive dashboard, which allow educators to identify and correct student challenges prior to traditional measured outcomes.

The company aims to create a new revenue model for its digital business, with the acquisition of LoudCloud. BNED  LoudCloud will support over 250,000 faculty and 5 million students, at more than 740 colleges and universities. Manoj Kutty, CEO, LoudCloud Systems remarks, “We have built and marketed best-in-class products used by over 25 educational institutions across the United States, Australia, and Asia.”

BNED goes beyond books, ties up with Unizin

Unizin has been a “foundational partner” in BNED’s effort to enhance its value proposition in a market that relies on the ability to measure performance and behavior. BNED entered into a partnership with Unizin to provide its 22 member universities with BNED LoudCloud’s predictive analytics solution. The goal is to improve student success rates and retention.

Unizin represents a consortium serving hundreds of thousands of students, dedicated to improving teaching and learning environments with digital technology. Amin Qazi, CEO, Unizin shared in a blog about the value of data in higher education,“Our agreement with Barnes & Noble Education is one of the ways our member institutions can continue to support the best possible student outcomes.” The collaboration is driven by a massive shift in thinking, that enables teaching and learning in a data-centric way.

According to Malhotra who said reportedly, the deal with Unizin wouldn’t automatically bring 22 new clients to LoudCloud, member universities will come onboard only over time. Colorado State University has already piloted the software, amidst others expressing a strong intent towards this deal.

BNED adopts a more analytics-based role with the Unizin deal

Unizin has worked on creating “relays” through which its member universities can share course content and data. The consortium has pieced together the technology infrastructure needed to enable that sort of sharing. Unizin CEO Amin Qazi mentioned that the member universities are working on the Unizin Learning Laboratory. This will assist in collecting data about student engagement to benefit researchers across the consortium.

However, Unizin is just getting started in putting together its learning ecosystem. The foundational pieces for that type of data gathering and sharing are still being laid.

Unizin will continue to work with LoudCloud to customize its software to fit member universities’ needs. This could mean anything, help with data collection or using the data to boost student retention. BNED is poised to take the lead by combining LoudCloud’s turnkey capabilities with the consortium’s data sharing capabilities.

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Amit Paul Chowdhury
With a background in Engineering, Amit has assumed the mantle of content analyst at Analytics India Magazine. An audiophile most of the times, with a soul consumed by wanderlust, he strives ahead in the disruptive technology space. In other life, he would invest his time into comics, football, and movies.

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