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Aug 21 2016
by Madeleine Williamson

Researchers Are Working on a Study To Make Highlighting More Effective

By Madeleine Williamson - Aug 21 2016

As a new school year starts and we all prepare to hit the books, researchers have some bad news. Highlighting doesn’t do much to help us remember information. But they hope to make highlights work for students, reported Friday. A research program focused on what students highlight will soon launch at Rice University, University of Colorado Boulder and University of California San Diego. The program was one of 18 to receive a National Science Foundation grant this week.

“College students generally aren't willing to change how they study, so we want to piggyback on what they're already doing—spontaneously annotating passages of text—and turn that from a marginal activity into one that improves learning," co-investigator Phillip Grimaldi said.

Researchers will collect students’ highlights with the help of free online textbook program OpenStax. Students who volunteer will have their highlights in OpenStax ebooks added to a database. Researchers will also study how students’ highlights can help them learn. They hope to predict students’ performance in the classroom based on what they highlight.

"Data from highlights supplied by OpenStax users will enable us to create tools that are both sensitive to each student's interests and robust to poor highlighting choices," Richard Baraniuk said. Baraniuk founded and serves as director of OpenStax. He is also a Rice engineering professor and the project’s co-principal investigator.

The project will continue for four years. After that, researchers hope to build software that customizes review materials based on highlights. The project promises to improve grades and tell us more about how students learn. And it’ll finally make all that highlighting worthwhile.

Lead Image Credit: David Mulder via Flickr Creative Commons

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Madeleine Williamson - DePaul University

Madeleine Williamson is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in journalism and minoring in political science and Spanish. She loves tea, stationery and exploring her new hometown of Chicago.

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