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The eBooks Will Read You Now: Pearson’s CourseSmart
CourseSmart Report

Schools put CourseSmart‘s big data analytics to work monitoring student engagement of assigned course materials. Earlier, we mentioned Desire2Learn, which analyzes student performance on the course level to improve graduation rates. Here’s a look at CourseSmart that crunches ebook usage by students so teachers can parse engagement through reports like the one excerpted above (full report at The Times).

Of course this is a helpful feature for traditional college professors, but could be vastly more helpful at the scale of MOOCs or other online courses.

There’s definitely some added value here for traditional publishers who know they need to do more than churn out digitized textbooks. It’s a long read, but worth the time to see how schools have begun to implement more and more tools from the big data tools employed by ebook companies like Amazon or retailers to personalize products.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Owned by Pearson, McGraw Hill and other publishers
  • Schools already using CourseSmart: Clemson, Central Carolina Technical College and the State University at Stony Brook, as well as Texas A&M University-San Antonio
  • Ranks students with an “engagement” metric calculated based on digital highlighting, pages turned, when and how often an ebook is accessed,
  • 3.5 million students being “read” by CourseSmart
  • Quotable: “Before this, the publisher never knew if Chapter 3 was even looked at,” said Sean Devine, CourseSmart’s chief executive.
  • CourseSmart says it holds digital rights to over 90 percent of textbooks used in higher ed.
  • Data can help publishers produce better content
  • CourseSmart can be tricked — if the ebook is left open, or highlighting random bits. Key will be not to base evaluation on this data — it’s just a signal.

From the article:

Major publishers in higher education have already been collecting data from millions of students who use their digital materials. But CourseSmart goes further by individually packaging for each professor information on all the students in a class — a bold effort that is already beginning to affect how teachers present material and how students respond to it, even as critics question how well it measures learning. The plan is to introduce the program broadly this fall.


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