New Software Tells Professors How Long You Spent Reading Your Assignment; Slackers at MA101 Already Figured Out How to Cheat

We talked a while ago about Amazon tracking your reading habits via Kindle, and now it seems another company has taken the technology to its logical extension: tracking how far college students get on their assigned reading.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

When students use print textbooks, professors can’t track their reading. But as learning shifts online, everything students do in digital spaces can be monitored, including the intimate details of their reading habits.

Those details are what will make the new CourseSmart service tick. 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.

Roll that idea around in your brain for a moment, all of you college-educated readers — instead of determining whether you did the reading by indirect evaluations like “quizzes” and “discussions” that test your knowledge of the material, professors can now simply check and see how long you had the book open.

The article doesn’t say what CourseSmart’s software does to prevent someone from pulling the textbook up on their e-reader and then flipping the pages in between pulls in World of Warcraft, of course. And hey, if the slackers are lucky, an increased reliance on direct data to evaluate each student’s study habits could lead to a corresponding drop-off in harder-to-bugger evaluation methods like tests!

So I’m going to go ahead and say there are problems with this idea. But it’s still interesting, no?

In a blogging-related footnote, this particular article came to be by way of a tweet from The Passive Voice, which was passing along an article from Publishing Perspectives, which was in turn referencing (although not linking to) the Chronicle article, which I Googled so I could link to it here. Now you know how I spend my mornings!

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