CourseSmart, a new Silicon Valley tracking technology that allows professors to track their students’ use of digital textbooks. The program is the ultimate academic Big Brother. The New York Times, reported that thanks to the program, professors “know when students are skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages, not bothering to take notes – or simply not opening the book at all.”
CourseSmart gives each student using its text an “engagement index,” based on how many times the e-textbook was opened, for how long, how many pages were read, how much and what sort of material was highlighted, and whether notes were taken. That “engagement index” is available for professors to use to understand how individual students are responding to course material.
The CourseSmart technology, is expected to be widely adopted by universities this fall. Currently, more than 3.5 million students and educators use CourseSmart textbooks, according to the NYT. Among the schools that have already adopted the program are Clemson University, Central Carolina Technical College, Stony Brook University, and Texas A&M San Antonio.
Big Brother is Watching! But CourseSmart’s proponents say it comes with a bevy of benefits.
The technology offers educators a powerful tool in tracking how students absorb and respond to course material. That feedback then allows professors to adjust how they present course material, tailor curricula to different sets of students, even reach out to individual students with low “engagement indexes.”
Eventually, CourseSmart says the “engagement index” data will help its publishers, including Cengage, Macmillan, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Wiley, design more effective e-textbook editions.