Students prefer Print?

Great post by Technology in Music Education today about a study that shows that college students prefer print books to e-textbooks. I attended a session at the MN e-Learning Summit in July presented by the folks at the U of M that shared the same impressions – that students didn’t use the interactive features, they preferred print, etc.

I have two main comments:

  1. What was not shared in the Chronicle article (and another summary article I saw about this but can’t find at the moment) is that the folks at the U has similar thoughts to what Chris expressed in his post: students and professors haven’t been exposed to these tools, and need to learn how to use them. I was happy to hear the U folks saying this, because it’s SO totally true.
  2. The U of M folks also expressed that the e-textbooks they used were not, perhaps, quite ready for primetime. There were some issues with the reader and it sounded like the e-texts were pretty much pdfs online, with minimal interactivity.


As Chris said, students and professors tend to stay with the familiar. These college students were trained in school to learn with certain tools. They know these tools, that’s their comfort zone. I saw this in an experience I had with an undergrad class last year. In a group of about 40 students, not a single student used a device to take notes. They actively expressed skepticism about e-texts — until they did more research and watched 6th grade students using our iPad app!

I also see this with my kids and their friends – both the 7th grader and the 10th grader. Kids stick with what they know and how they’ve been taught. I’ve asked high school kids if they want digital curriculum, and they have all the same reasons we hear that they don’t: not everyone has a device, they prefer print, etc. We can’t always rely on the students to lead. Sometimes, they need to be taught – shown – different ways of learning. In my cynical state, it’s just a sign of how they are trained in our current educational system.


I totally concur that the e-text industry isn’t ready for prime time. I’ve done a great deal of looking at digital textbooks and curriculum. I have yet to see tools that really take advantage of the medium and aren’t basically moving print to digital. Fortunately, not all are just pdfsĀ online, but they still have a ways to go.

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