Didn’t do the reading? With Digital Textbooks, Your Professor Can Prove It12/04/2013
I’m of two minds about the creation of digital textbooks. On the one hand, they are cheaper to produce and therefor cheaper for the student. Also, they have a lot of extra capabilities, such as the ability to copy/paste or reference easily for papers and assignments.
But on the darker side, they do give the publisher quite a bit of power. DRM can force textbooks to “expire” (I’ve dealt with this myself), so you can’t reference it years later if you want, and they’re usually completely unportable, in the sense that they don’t work in any reader but the publisher’s reader.
Now there’s a third thing: classroom control. I’ll admit that I didn’t always do every bit of required reading for courses, but I was pretty good about it, maybe even better than most. However, the idea that a professor can see which pages I’ve looked at and what I’ve highlighted, without me sharing it explicitly is a little disconcerting.
There exists a textbook that will report back to your professors about whether you’ve been reading it, according to a report Tuesday from the New York Times. A startup named CourseSmart now offers an education package to schools that allows professors to, among other things, monitor what their students read in course textbooks as well as passages they highlight.
CourseSmart acts as a provider of digital textbooks working with publishers like McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and John Wiley and Sons. The NY Times describes books in use at Texas A&M University, which present an “engagement index” to professors that can be used to evaluate students’ performance in class.