News  |  ,   |  February 20, 2018

I Know How You Felt This Semester: New software aims to help instructors understand students better, but raises privacy and practicality concerns

News article by Mark Lieberman.
Published by Inside Higher Ed.

Excerpt:

How’s everyone doing so far? Am I being clear? Anyone confused?

Professors might ask these questions midway through a lecture to get a sense of students’ moods. The scattered answers often aren’t very helpful, if they’re even accurate.

With sentiment analysis software, set for trial use later this semester in a classroom at the University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota, instructors don’t need to ask. Instead, they can glance at their computer screen at a particular point or stretch of time in the session and observe an aggregate of the emotions students are displaying on their faces: happiness, anger, contempt, disgust, fear, neutrality, sadness and surprise.

The project team hopes the software will help instructors tailor their teaching approaches to levels of student interest, and to address areas of concern, confusion and apathy from students. If most students drift into negative emotions midway through the session, an instructor could enliven that section with an active assignment. If half the students are happy and the other half aren’t, the latter group might be getting left behind.

Meanwhile, the “creepy” factor that pervades many new technology tools lingers over that potential. “Inside Digital Learning” talked to some analysts who worry that the superficial appeal of this affective computing technology might be obscuring larger concerns. Others, though, think this tool could be a worthwhile addition to a professor’s own emotional judgment. [ . . . ]