Among the many gadgets and gewgaws announced this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was a debut that may be a boon to students getting more comfortable with digital textbooks.
Kno Inc., an education software provider that currently distributes more than 200,000 interactive etextbook titles from 65 leading publishers, today announced the launch of Kno Me—a new analytics tool and “visual dashboard” aimed at helping students measure their study behavior. The dashboard, which will be an included feature in all etextbooks distributed by the company, will allow students to keep their analytics information private, or to opt-in to share their study results with peers and classmates.
Etextbooks are just beginning to showcase their potential for multimedia, interactive content, student collaboration, and analytics. But analytics also pose the thorniest questions about privacy and how these analytics scores may impact a student’s grade. In an earlier LJ Insider post regarding an analytics product from CourseSmart that will allow professors to track how much time their students spend reading assigned etextbooks, LJ News Editor Meredith Schwartz asked “What if [students] read unusually fast—or slowly? What if they prefer handwritten notes? … What if they prefer other sources altogether?” Surely it would be unfair for a professor—consciously or unconsciously—to penalize an otherwise good student just because his or her calculated “engagement score” does not conform.
What’s interesting about Kno’s new analytic tools is that the company claims it will be leaving teachers and professors out of the loop. The student’s metrics and their dashboard information will be private unless they want to share information with friends.
“It’s a personal study dashboard,” Osman Rashid, CEO of Kno, told me. “It helps students measure their engagement with each Kno textbook that they use. So, students can check in to see their stats for time spent reading, notes added, flashcards mastered. This helps them monitor their progress and give them insight into how well they are studying…The more we can help students understand their own study behavior, the more they will be engaged, and the better the outcomes will be. This has everything to do with the student improving themselves, versus being a surveillance platform for everyone else to see what the student is doing.”
If a student is struggling in a particular class, he or she can use the Kno Me dashboard and request to “follow” a peer who is performing well, making an effort to mimic his or her studying habits for that class.
“There’s a social element to it,” Rashid said. “You can begin to see how other people in the class are studying for the final exam, or what else is going on. It gives them a ‘learning GPS’ for how they can better study themselves. The only time information is shared is if a student gives permission. It doesn’t automatically start sharing just because someone requested it.”
This seems like a much better approach for etextbook analytics in higher education. Although professors could, presumably, send students follow requests (which would extend the pressure of that particular power dynamic), plenty of professors would rightly view the tracking of individual students as unnecessary. These tools instead encourage students to collaborate and learn from one another. Privacy concerns are sidestepped by allowing students to choose whom they will share information with, and this social media-style approach could eventually help expose students to a variety of effective study habits, rather than urging them to conform to a specific, standard style.