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updated 11/19/2012 2:19:17 PM ET 2012-11-19T19:19:17

Students may no longer enjoy the luxury of slacking off in privacy because of new electronic textbooks that report their study habits.

Teachers can track the time spent reading e-textbooks and see the notes or highlights made by students through the new service offered by CourseSmart Analytics. Three U.S. universities and colleges have signed on to test the e-textbook service before it becomes widely available in 2013 — a way to identify students who need help and gauge the e-textbooks that hold student interest.

"With the CourseSmart dashboard, professors will be better able to fine-tune lesson plans, critique student performance, and even tailor suggestions for specific students on how to study more effectively to help them stay on track and stay in school," said Ellen Wagner, executive director at the Cooperative for Educational Technology (WCET).

Such a service represents the latest possibility for using digital learning to get better feedback on how well students are doing at all times — even when those students are studying on their own without teachers or parents. The information could allow professors and teachers to fine-tune lesson plans and focus efforts on struggling students.

Some digital textbook services already track the study habits of users, but the CourseSmart effort makes the information readily available and useful for educators.

"We have long believed in the benefits of analytics as a means to improve learning outcomes, increase retention and graduation rates, and help lower the costs of higher education," said Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart.

The first three educational institutes testing the idea include Texas A&M University in San Antonio, Villanova University and Rasmussen College, according to an announcement at the EDUCAUSE 2012 conference on Nov. 7.

But some students will likely find it creepy to have textbooks keeping an eye on their study habits. The new pilot program may at least allow educators to navigate the privacy issues or concerns that can arise from deploying the digital textbook service.

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© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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