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The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Data Mining of E-Textbooks Set to Begin

An advantage to digital course materials that is just beginning to be understood is their ability to track a student’s progress and study habits through learning management systems. Course materials can be integrated through the management system, which records the amount of time a student spends reading, how many pages are viewed, and how many notes or highlights they make.

Now, CourseSmart has launched a new service that helps faculty members measure that engagement. Rasmussen College, Texas A&M University at San Antonio, and Villanova University are already part of a beta program for CourseSmart Analytics, which is expected to be available for all schools next year.

“The higher education community is hungry for actionable data that links student engagement to their learning content,” said Ellen Wagner, executive director for WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technology, in a statement at Educause 2012 in Denver. “With the CourseSmart dashboard, professors will be better able to fine-tune lesson plans, critique student performances, and even tailor suggestions for specific students on how to study more effectively to help them stay on track and stay in school.”

The CourseSmart product will track student behavior with the course materials as well as provide information to assess whether an electronic textbook is being used effectively. The analytics can also help identify at-risk students and is accessible through a number of learning management systems.

“There is a screaming demand in the marketplace for knowledge around what impact course materials have on learning,” said Sean Devine, chief executive of CourseSmart, in an interview at the conference.

At the same time, some groups have questioned the effect on a reader’s right to privacy. The American Library Association has already stated its concern over lending e-books on Kindles, which can be monitored by Amazon. Students will be able to opt out of the CourseSmart program if they don’t want their information shared, according to Devine.

“We do understand the Big Brother aspects of it,” he said.

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