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Facial Recognition Heads to Class. Will Students Benefit?

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Inside Higher Ed, February 2024

Last week, in a humanities class at a highly selective university in the Northeast, a student played The New York Times’ Spelling Bee game on a phone, according to another student who sat within view. (The source requested anonymity out of concern for retribution.) A third student worked on an essay for a different class on an open laptop, while a student a few chairs away rested their feet on the desk. Another checked LinkedIn and updated a résumé for “quite a while.”

“I think this prof is trying to do whatever she can to get good reviews because she brought cookies to class today and hasn’t said anything all term about people texting from their MacBooks during class,” the disappointed student wrote in a text after class had ended. For faculty members who hesitate—for any reason—to assume responsibility for minimizing distractions in the classroom, Chafic Bou-Saba, associate professor for computing technology and information systems at Guilford College, is working on a solution. Bou-Saba is designing a facial recognition system for classroom management. Multiple cameras spread throughout the room will take attendance, monitor whether students are paying attention and detect their emotional states, including whether they are bored, distracted or confused.

“The use of the latest technology was the driving force behind this project,” Bou-Saba said of his research project. “The device will take the stress away [from the teacher] and will document student behavior, if needed, by taking five- to 10-second videos.” The instructor could then say, “Hey, here you are not looking, here you interacted with another student and here you are doing something else.” Bou-Saba hopes that, with training, the AI-powered software could also help detect how much the students are learning. He aims to test the system by the semester’s end.

Continue reading at Inside Higher Ed.

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