As students study, digital textbooks study them too

But not all types of engagement were necessarily indicators of better outcomes said Reynol Junco, an associate professor of library science at Purdue University who co-wrote the research paper.

“What was especially interesting was that highlighting was related to student course outcomes, although not in the way that you might think,” Junco wrote. “Those students who were in the top 10th percentile of number of highlights had significantly lower course grades than students in the lower 90th percentile.”

This, Junco said, is due to the fact that low-skill readers often highlight more text than high-skill readers.

Having such data come right from a textbook in real time could help instructors identify students who are not only struggling to absorb information, but having difficultly reading it in the first place.

With even traditional textbook publishers transitioning into digital learning companies, simple e-versions of print textbooks may soon be seen as old-fashioned as the physical books themselves.

Over half of Wiley’s annual revenue now comes from digital course material, according to a White Paper released earlier this month by IXXUS that urged publishers to adopt a “digital-first” approach.

In October 2013, McGraw-Hill Education’s former CEO predicted that nearly 40 percent of its offerings would be digital products by the end of the year, with a particular focus on adaptive learning and analytics.

“No matter what a student’s prior academic ability, which may not be specifically known, the course instructor can have an unobtrusive real-time method to identify students at risk of academic failure that is not tied to activity on a learning content management system,” the CourseSmart researchers wrote.

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