tudents use a variety of technologies to learn and complete assignments. In some cases, the form of technology is imposed by the schools. At other times, students can select their own interactions to engage in their studies.
Three student researchers – Diego Mendes, Amanda Davis, and Vignesh Krubai of Bentley University recently conducted an engagement comparison study between traditional paper textbooks and digital textbooks found on an iPad. All ten of the participants were students who owned iPads and use the internet for at least ten hours per week. This article will focus on the qualitative findings from their tests. Additional information about the research methods and support, provided by SMI and Affectiva, can be found at affectiva.com and www.eyetracking-glasses.com.
Among these students, common activities on their iPads include accessing the web, checking email, gaming and social networking. Some students additionally mentioned using eBooks, music application, course maintenance, movies and looking at powerpoints during class.
Each of the students were asked to do a series of tasks on the iPad version of the textbook, followed by the paper version of the textbook. When questioned about their preference between the digital and paper version of the textbook, half of the students preferred the iPad and the other half preferred paper textbook. Despite owning an iPad, half of the students preferred the traditional methods for studying.
The students liked the digital textbook for several reasons. A commonly cited advantage for the iPad version of the textbook was easier searching for content and easier navigation. One student liked the easy access to the internet for supplemental research. Several participants thought the structure was easier to understand on the iPad, but were worried about getting tired at looking at the screen and swipping to flip pages more frequently due to the small screen size.
On the other hand, students cited several reasons for using the paper version of the textbook. This included that pictures were clear and did not require enlarging to see them better. They also said paper versions of the textbook allowed for reselling, were cheaper to purchase, allowed for more freedom and were more comfortable. They also said they were able to view more information at one time and that the paper textbook was more reliable because the batteries would not die.
While all of our participants had invested in an iPad, this qualitative analysis gives insight into the reasons these same students choose traditional methods of engaging in the classrooms. Despite their access to the digital interaction, students do not have a market place for reselling their digital textbooks and end up spending more on digital texts book than on their paper equivalents. The challenge for wider adoption is to lower the costs of entry into digital textbooks, create a marketplace for reselling textbooks, and improve the reliability of e-readers.