Digital textbooks now have the ability to determine how much material a student has read, as well as how long it took them to read it and their personal “active reading” study habits.
Professors are using this data to predict how their students will perform in a class.
A study that followed 236 undergraduate students from Texas A&M University of San Antonio utilized digital textbooks in order to determine what type of studying was most beneficial to succeeding in college courses. Some theorized that how long the student read would matter most, while others believed that “active reading”, such as using a highlighter tool, would result in success.
The results showed that students who spent more minutes reading typically did better in the class. This factor was more accurate at predicting course outcomes than previous academic performances.
However, concerning take away from the results is that students aren’t reading. Students observed in the study read a median amount of two hours and 49 minutes per semester, about the duration of a long movie.
The Iowa State University Professor who was conducting the study, Reynol Junco, said, “It's not that students were overworked or required to read a crazy amount. The reading was pretty fair for college students.”
The company that produced the digital textbooks, CourseSmart, provides an “engagement index” that professors can view for each student. This index measures both time spent reading and active reading engagements. It also knows if the student falls asleep with the book open, and it is able to predict course outcomes and pinpoint students at risk for failure.
The data also showed that most students did not participate in active reading. However, the students that did active reading typically performed better in the class. It also showed that “speed readers”, those who rushed through readings particularly quickly, usually performed worse than students that took their time.
While students might be a little irked that their study habits can be spied upon by the professors, there is a bright side. Professors will be able to better determine which students are in the most trouble and perhaps offer them some much needed guidance or pointers.