New E-Textbooks Will Tattle To Professors About Students' Reading Habits

CourseSmart plans to track how students read. It'll even determine their "engagement" in reading. Boy we're glad we aren't in school any more.

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Dan Bracaglia

Digital textbooks seem like they should be a boon to students. They all fit on a single, thin device. They're (hopefully) cheaper. But dead-tree books beat them out on at least one thing: they won't tattle on you for not doing the assigned reading.

CourseSmart, a big e-textbook publisher, just unveiled a tool called CourseSmart Analytics that can track students' reading habits. Villanova University, Rasmussen College, and Texas A&M University at San Antonio will pilot the tool, which can determine how many pages students read, how much time it took them to read those pages, how many notes they took, and--here's the kicker--how "engaged" they were by the reading, based on those figures. The idea is for professors to look at those numbers and adjust help and attention accordingly.

This will probably be a little controversial. But there is a way to opt out, if you're a student who prefers to study alone.