As students study, digital textbooks study them too

Learning analytics embedded into digital textbooks may be more effective at predicting student outcomes than prior academic achievement, a metric long thought to be the strongest predictor of success.

digital-textbook-learningPredictive and learning analytics has been touted for its ability to “read” students, providing educators with a host of data about studying habits, problem areas, and background information, according to a recent study commissioned by eTextbook publisher CourseSmart.

With analytics installed directly into a digital textbook, that analysis can happen seamlessly while students are doing their own reading, researchers said.

“Seeing how a student’s engaging with a book, how much of the book they’re consuming, how they’re using the tools in the book, is an indication of how successful they’ll be,” Cindy Clarke, CourseSmart’s vice president of marketing, recently told Education Dive.

CourseSmart provided researchers with data on about 230 students who used its digital course materials during a pilot program in 2013.

The information included final course grades, prior academic achievement, and what CourseSmart calls an engagement index score, which measures how much a student is engaging with eTextbooks. This includes the number of pages viewed, highlighting passages, and taking notes.

The researchers found that they were able to more accurately predict student outcomes and better identify points of intervention based on the engagement index than traditional methods like attendance, class participation, and prior achievement.

The report found that students read an average of 551 pages throughout the semester, and spent an average of 442 minutes on reading the digital textbooks.

Each student created about 4 highlights, 42 bookmarks, and 16 notes – and the more a student engaged with the eTextbook, the better the final course grade.

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