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Will Digital Textbooks Tattle on Students Who Don't Study?

"We do understand the Big Brother aspects of it.”

(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Students might have been able to lie their way around how much they'd studied to mom, dad and even teachers, but technology is changing all that. Electronic textbooks that are able to track how often a student cracks the digital pages could reveal just how much time they put in to preparing.

The Chronicles of Higher Education reported that the company CourseSmart, which sells e-textbooks, announced earlier this month a beta test of its analytics program, which would track student engagement. CourseSmart described the technology in its announcement as a "proprietary algorithm that evaluates standard usage data such as page views, time spent in a textbook, and notes and highlights taken by a student, and assimilates them into an overall assessment of students' engagement with the material."

Using this information, educators should be able to identify students who might need extra help before it gets to a point where grades start slipping.

"We have long believed in the benefits of analytics as a means to improve learning outcomes, increase retention and graduation rates, and help lower the costs of higher education," Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart, said in a statement. "We are thrilled to bring these benefits to reality through our CourseSmart Engagement Score Technology™, which will provide faculty with meaningful metrics about students' engagement with digital course materials so they can offer guidance to maximize student performance."

The Chronicles of Higher Education asked the question we're all thinking though: Isn’t it a bit creepy to have textbooks watching their users?

“Not if it helps you succeed,” Devine said.  “We do understand the Big Brother aspects of it.”

Thankfully, Devine said an opt out feature is included for those not interested in data sharing.

Universities involved in the pilot program include Texas A&M, Villanova, and Rasmussen College.

Featured image via Shutterstock.com.

(H/T: Gizmodo)

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