Do students prefer digital or paper textbooks?

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, via Google Education Team:

Here’s a better quote (not from the article): “Students tend to be comfortable with what they know, and do not embrace change, neither do their professors.”  Textbooks are so new on these devices, and we’ve only had iBook level of interactive materials for part of a year.  Therefore, it is too early to make the decision about whether textbooks should be on paper or digital devices.

The report made it clear that the professors didn’t know how to make use of their eTextbooks, and as a result, neither did their students.  From the actual report:

Faculty, for the most part, did not report using the enhanced eText features (sharing notes, tracking students,question/answer, additional links, etc.) and indicated the need for additional training.

Because faculty did not use the enhanced features students saw little benefit from the eText platform’s capability of promoting collaboration with other students or with the professor.

This is actually one of my arguments against “pure” BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology).  We assume that all students are digital natives, but not all students are (we forget that most people are NOT geeks).  Many students need teachers to show them how to use technology effectively.  Granted, some strategies may be universal, but teachers that know a specific device can share that knowledge and train their students.  This is why I have a number of students that have–on their own–bought an iPad to use at school–primarily to use in choir.  Think about that for a moment.  The teacher has a huge impact on the technology used by their students.

A specific company (McGraw-Hill) provided e-Books for the project…that company may not be the best choice for eTextbooks. The McGraw-Hill eTextbooks were not optimized for the iPad, which is significant. From the actual report:

Difficult readability of the text (e.g., difficult zoom feature) was mentioned numerous times by students as well as lack of native functionality on tablets such as the iPad.

As for the argument that “I just like paper better,” you can’t fight that.  There will always be paper books.  But the population will continue to move towards digital books which are lighter, cheaper, and easier to obtain than paper books.

If I were a college student today, I would want the ability to have interactive features, the ability to take notes without ruining a book, the ability to carry all of my books with me at all times, and of course, to save money.  I don’t think I’m alone in that opinion.


Posted on August 24, 2012, in General Musings. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Do students prefer digital or paper textbooks?.

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