etextbook use

How is eTextbook use shaping up across the globe?

A study of UK eTextbook use reveals satisfaction despite uneven adoption.

Sixty-one percent of surveyed students said they used eTextbooks during their university studies. The majority of students borrowed one from the library (65 percent) or received one through their institution (55 percent), while 35 percent purchased a copy for themselves.

Fifty-eight percent of responding students whose institutions gave them eTextbooks said their instructors use an eTextbook related to the course in their instruction. Uses include referencing the text in lecture notes, sharing notes from an eTextbook, showing images or interactivity contained in the eTextbook, and referencing the eTextbook in assignments.

Eighty-eight percent of students who have used an eTextbook would recommend them to a friend. Increased use raises those figures even higher–among those who frequently use institutionally-provided eTextbooks, 98 percent would recommend them to a friend.

More than three-quarters of respondents (78 percent) said they were satisfied with ease of access to their eTextbooks. Seventy-three percent of surveyed students said they are satisfied with how easy eTextbooks were to use.

Just 19 percent of students said they were extremely satisfied with the amount of multimedia available in their eTextbook, and more than 40 percent reported being dissatisfied. Overall, 48 percent of students said they were dissatisfied with the way instructors used eTextbooks.

Overall, digital learning appears to be a large part of students’ experiences.

Ninety-three percent of survey participants reported using a Virtual Learning Environment, such as Blackboard or Moodle, to access lecture notes or other resources. Seventy-two percent used electronic journal articles or databases.

All participants own at least one portable digital device, most commonly a smartphone, followed by a laptop. More significantly, 89 percent take their devices to lectures.  First-year students are the least likely to take devices to class, with 15 percent reporting they ‘have a device, but don’t take it to lectures’ compared to only 9 percent of second-year students.

Students who take digital devices to class actively used them for learning activities. Ninety percent of surveyed students said they had used their device for last minute reading or to verify something in class, immediately before a test, or before handing in an assignment. For 82 percent of students this was a regular part of their learning experience.

The landscape is much the same in the U.S.

In recent years, research has been divided between revealing students’ intense dislike or definite appreciation for eTextbooks.

Some groups are introducing tools that make eTextbook use easier. For instance, course instructors can use tools that help them package lesson content into an interactive eTextbook format for students to download.

Kentucky State University (KSU) is hoping to make college more affordable for students through a new partnership with Pearson that will offer eTextbooks to all KSU students for a flat fee. KSU also is providing a book scholarship to every student, which means the e-textbooks are free.

And Indiana University students saved $8 million over the last three years by opting into a digital learning program that uses eTextbooks, school officials said.

The textbooks cost about $35, and students access them through the internet on computers and mobile devices. They can take notes and highlight passages, and professors can also add their own notes to alert students to important passages.

Laura Ascione

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