Helpful or Just Creepy?

My students have reading assignments for every class, and the quality of class discussion depends very much on whether they have read (and even thought about) those pages.  Sometimes, especially at this busy time of year, I suspect that not every student has done his or her homework.  I think I’d like to be able to know who’s keeping up — both to deter slacking and to get some feedback on student engagement.

So you’d think I’d be overjoyed to learn about CourseSmart (a company that sells digital versions of textbooks by big publishers) and its new analytics service.  According to the Chronicle for Higher Education:

Say a student uses an introductory psychology e-textbook. The book will be integrated into the college’s course-management system. It will track students’ behavior: how much time they spend reading, how many pages they view, and how many notes and highlights they make. That data will get crunched into an engagement score for each student.

Nifty, huh? Textbooks that monitor student engagement.  Yet there’s that pesky invasion of privacy element that sort of creeps me out about secretly “watching” my students, especially when it could be combined with other forms of student data-mining. I can see that much of this information can be used for good.  But right now, I still vote Creepy.

About Beth Thornburg

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One Response to Helpful or Just Creepy?

  1. Tom Mayo says:

    Totally agree. I am more interested in what students can do. If they can get what they need from class discussion, and without reading the assignment, more power to them. And if I continue to believe that reading and processing the assignments is an important part of their growth as professionals, then I guess it is time for me to reassess what I am doing in and out of the classroom to encourage that level of engagement.

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