Anyone who can remember cramming last minute for an exam or skipping whole chapters of assigned reading in the classroom may soon be part of a long-gone era. With the growing popularity of the flipped classroom and greater integration of technology into the curriculum, teachers are discovering a whole new set of tools to help monitor student progress. At Texas A&M University, for instance, educators no longer have to wonder about which students are sidestepping textbook readings—they already know. They also know which parts of their textbooks students are skipping and whether they are highlighting important passages and taking notes. While it might sound like Texas A&M instructors have acquired psychic abilities, in fact, they represent one of eight schools testing CourseSmart, a Silicon Valley-based technology startup co-owned by Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and other major publishers, that lets teachers track student progress, effort, and engagement with digital textbooks.
With CourseSmart, teachers are able to view individually prepared reports on each student’s “engagement index.” The index can only be viewed by instructors, who can share the information with their pupils if necessary, making students keenly aware that their time spent studying is being tracked. Teachers aren’t just looking out for how often or how thoroughly students are reading their textbooks, but also when they are reading. CourseSmart gives teachers insight into whether students are engaging with their textbooks along the suggested reading schedule, or whether they are simply cramming the night before a test. Student engagement data will not only be useful to teachers, but also to publishers and authors, who can apply the information and feedback towards optimizing future textbook editions.