Leveraging Big Brother

When I started using online tools in my classes, it wasn’t to keep track of students: I wanted to help them engage with the material.  I will say, however, that a significant advantage of moving assignments and readings online–especially an environment that requires a login–is that you get a very clear picture of who has done those readings or that assignment.

For example, rather than wondering why one section of a class was so much more reticent on Friday, I can look online and see that only half as many people in that class had bothered to access the online material.

Even though that kind of data isn’t terribly precise (it can’t tell you whether someone’s read the material, just whether they’ve accessed it), having it probably would influence the way one manages a class and designs assignments.  I actually have daily online quizzes, but clearly I’m leaving them open for too long, and I need to re-explain when students should be taking them.  (I.e., before class, not after.)

But it is not a happy moment to realize that more than 50% of the students in one section didn’t bother to do the reading.  (Honestly, who doesn’t love Edmund Burke?)

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