New technology allows professors to track whether students are reading their textbooks

May 2, 2013 by

This semester, thousands of college students around the country, including dozens at a Texas A&M University campus, won’t be able to hide their studying habits from the prying eyes of their professors.

With the new platform CourseSmart Analytics, professors are able to see the students’ level of engagement – how much of digital texts students have read, whether they highlight passages or took notes and how much time they spent on their readings.

A beta version of CourseSmart is being tested at several universities during the spring semester serving about 4,000 students, and officials hope to roll it out fully by the fall, said spokeswoman Cindy Clark. The goal is to move away from traditional textbooks and methods and help give faculty an insight into their students’ behaviors, she said.

“Only about 55 percent of college students graduate within six years,” Clark said. “This illustrates the demand within higher education for a tool that would help students be more successful in their studies and graduate on time.”

The system works through a dashboard that tracks the students’ progress in the texts. An “engagement index” aggregates data points and an instructor can evaluate the material and intervene early with students that appear to be struggling, she said.

The pilot programs are helping CourseSmart get feedback, so that they can improve upon the tools. For example, the company is considering allowing students to see their own metrics and not just the professor as originally planned. Clark said the pilot program will also help the company determine if any particular discipline benefits more from the technology than others.

CourseSmart carries more than 90 percent of core textbooks and works through the universities’ administration learning management systems, Clark said. Students have the option to opt out, but none in the trial period decided not to participate.

Adrian Guardia, Texas A&M University at San Antonio lecturer in human resource management, is using the technology in his three classes, one of which is online only. He was an early supporter and promoter of converting traditional textbooks to e-books in the business school.

“It’s been an interesting journey,” Guardia said of the CourseSmart. “The new data helps us understand how they are using their e-books. That may provide some information as to whether they are doing well or not as a result of that engagement.”

Guardia reviewed his students’ engagement levels around the midterms. He noticed several students were near failing based on traditional methods, such as quiz scores and assignments. He reached out to each one and pointed out they were not doing well in his class, but also were not engaged in their textbooks.

“It came down to them admitting they had not been true to their study habits,” he said. “They were embarrassed about owning up to it, but it helped.”

Guardia also learned something from the metrics himself. Some students that fared well in assignments and quizzes, had less than optimal levels of engagement with their texts. He said it caused him to reassess whether the materials were challenging enough and required enough critical thinking.

“For me, it represented an aha moment,” he said. “This is something I would not have understood if it were not for the index… I would have never had this moment that would cause me to think about my teaching methods.”

via New technology allows professors to track whether students are reading their textbooks – Houston Chronicle.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.