Software sniffs out lazy pupils

If student life was not hard enough, Texas professors are testing software which tells if you have skimped the reading.

According to the New York Times, one of the disadvantages of electronic text books is that teachers can use software to tell if pages have been read.

Adrian Guardia, a Texas A&M instructor in management, uses an app called CourseSmart to track students’ progress in their e-textbooks.

It means that they can tell if students are skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages or not bothering to take notes.

Tracy Hurley, the dean of the school of business admitted that it was Big Brother, but with “a good intent”.

She said that the faculty members were neither clairvoyant nor peering over shoulders they are just testing technology from a Silicon Valley start-up, CourseSmart, that allows them to track their students’ progress with digital textbooks.

What most readers don’t know is that this data is being collected already. Major publishers have collected data from millions of students who use their digital materials. CourseSmart individually packages the data for each professor information on all the students in a class. It means that teachers can look at how they present material and how students respond to it.

Guardia smelt a rat when one student who was doing really well had opened his textbook only once.

Guardia said that the student was only opening the book the night before the test and was not really learning anything.

In another case the teacher discovered that a student was not doing that well, probably because he had two jobs, three children, and can study only late at night. Apparently the fact he studies at all does not get much in the way of credit from the software.

CourseSmart is owned by Pearson, McGraw-Hill and other major publishers who want to offer administrators and faculty a constant stream of data about how students are doing.