E-textbook espionage

Teachers now have the ability to spy on students’ progress using new digital technology.

by Editorial board


The current generation of college students is getting degrees through  myriad  mediums and technologies that no other collegiate generation has had access to before. From podcasts and live-streamed lectures to digital textbooks and virtual collaboration with fellow classmates, methods of teaching and learning in college have changed drastically in the last decade. No two professors teach the same class the same way, and the traditional theories about what exactly constitutes a classroom experience and the teacher-student relationship have been dissolved.

Thanks to new digital e-textbook software, teachers have the ability to become more involved in tracking the progress of student learning. An article published by The New York Times on April 8 reported on Texas A&M University’s use of e-textbooks, which allows professors to know if students have completed the assigned reading. According to the article, “[teachers] know when students are skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages, not bothering to take notes — or simply not opening the book at all.”

This technology, developed by a Silicon Valley startup called CourseSmart, is being tested at eight other colleges around the country. The technology will likely open up an important debate about student privacy policies and overbearing teacher involvement in students’ academic lives.

While the ability to see whether students are on track with course work seems more appropriate in middle and high school, data sent back to the company has the potential to create better and more accessible textbooks for students. But for now, we as students are fine keeping CourseSmart software an arm’s length away from the University of Minnesota and ask our professors to not get any crazy ideas.