Paper or pixels?
Study examines efficacy of electronic books
Despite belonging to a generation that grew up with personal computers and cell phones, it seems today’s college students still like paper when it comes to hitting the books.
In a pilot study conducted on the UI campus last year, a research team within the university’s Information Technology Services found that students in classes using an electronic textbook (or e-textbook) did not fare any better in terms of final grades than their counterparts using traditional paper textbooks. Some 529 students were involved in the study.
“We often assume that students today are extremely technologically advanced—and indeed they are spending more and more time using electronic media—but when it comes to textbooks, things are more thorny,” says Sam Van Horne, assessment coordinator for ITS–Instructional Services and the Office of the Provost.
While there was no significant difference in learning outcomes between the two groups, the study’s early analysis did indicate an association between certain measures of e-textbook usage (unique pages read and number of bookmarks used, for example) and students’ learning outcomes. The researchers plan to further examine the factors of e-textbook usage that seem to promote student learning.
Nancy Langguth, clinical associate professor of teaching and learning in the College of Education, jumped at the opportunity to participate in the pilot project using an e-textbook from Courseload, Inc.
“My students are on the cusp of being teachers themselves—what better place to experience e-textbooks than while they are here on campus?” says Langguth, adding that she appreciated the technology’s interactive features. “It was a rare opportunity for them to experience e-textbooks from a student’s perspective, which will help them make informed decisions about the technology when they are teachers.”