A new report from a U.K. digital textbook provider has shown that many students are fine with teacher snooping if it ends up leading to better classroom performance. The report, titled “University of the Future,” implies a strong benefit to allowing teachers to track what students have read and how long they spent studying.
Among the findings from the report are:
- 91% would be happy for their lecturer to track their progress week by week if it helped them achieve better grades
- 76% of students believe better use of learning analytics could be key to improving retention
- 47% felt their grades would improve if lecturers had the ability to see how well they were doing throughout the course
Kortext describes itself in the report as “the UK’s leading provider of digital textbook and learning solutions.” Although the fact that the report comes from a company that stands to gain from the findings should be weighed when evaluating it, the data supports a trend that many have observed among current Generation Z students. The report further argues that because students have grown up broadcasting their lives on social media and having their activities tracked by a plethora of companies, they have fewer privacy concerns than previous generations might have.
As Forbes noted when reporting on the study, this would seem to reinforce the idea that younger people are willing to trade away a bit of privacy for the prospect of gaining something from it.
While this study specifically applies to textbook usage, it is only a matter of degrees before this could apply to student usage of digital library services. As ALA states in the Privacy Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights:
In all areas of librarianship, best practice leaves the user in control of as many choices as possible. These include decisions about the selection of, access to, and use of information. Lack of privacy and confidentiality has a chilling effect on users’ choices. All users have a right to be free from any unreasonable intrusion into or surveillance of their lawful library use.
While advanced features will encourage students to better use library resources and libraries cannot avoid evolving mindsets around privacy and user protections, these concerns should be front of mind when evaluating any vendor or potential service offering. Privacy, like the discussion of gossip in the film Doubt, is ephemeral: Once it is lost, it can be terribly difficult to regain. As such, it should be guarded whenever possible in the library setting despite the current willingness of user’s to sacrifice it without a second thought.
John “Mack” Freeman is the marketing and programming coordinator for the West Georgia Regional Library. He is a past recipient of the Freedom to Read Foundation’s Conable Scholarship, and he was a 2015 ALA Emerging Leader. He currently co-chairs the GLBTRT’s Stonewall Book Award Committee and is the 2nd vice president/membership chair of the Georgia Library Association. He is interested in privacy, self-censorship, new frontiers of IF, and services to under-served communities. You can find out more about him at www.johnmackfreeman.com. When not in library world, he enjoys walking Micah, the laziest blueheeler in the world, going on adventures with his husband Dale, and cooking Italian food from unintentionally snobby mid-century cookbooks. Find him on Twitter @johnmackfreeman.