CourseSmart, a company that sells electronic textbooks, is introducing a tool that will enable professors and others to monitor how much time students spend reading and how many notes they make, according to an articyle in The Chronicle of Higher Education Saturday.
Sean Devine, the chief executive of CourseSmart, told the Chronicle that students who do not want their data shared would be able to opt of the program, which only makes sense. By the time students have arrived at college, many of them have already developed their own unique reading and note-taking styles. A professor who requires his or her students to share that information would appear to be micromanaging them.
Professors should be able to gauge their students’ understanding of course material. However, there are other, less inhibitive and perhaps more useful ways for them to accomplish that. Exams and classroom discussions can give professors a clear idea of how concepts are landing, while a time code might simply reveal that a student opened his or her book.
Not every student interacts with reading material the same way. Some students read more quickly than others or take fewer notes when they read. Some professors might take that information and assume that those students sped through material without understanding it, which might not be the case. Some students absorb information more quickly than others and with fewer notes.
While a reading surveillance program might assist students who are not strong readers, it should only be employed upon students’ requests. Really, it falls on the students to decide how they interact with their course material, if at all. Monitoring them seems inhibitive and ineffective. Ultimately, the goal is for students to understand the material. It should not matter how they got there.