Despite a growing push to integrate more digital materials into higher-ed courses, fewer than 20 percent of faculty said they believe digital materials are important or very important for core texts, according to a recent survey.

A survey for the Independent College Bookstore Association (ICBA), conducted by the Campus Computing Project, surveyed 2,900 college and university faculty at 29 two- and four-year colleges and universities to gauge their concerns about instructional benefits around going digital.

The quality and cost of course materials for students are the key factors influencing college faculty when it comes to textbooks and other course materials. Though the movement to digital materials is growing, faculty have expressed concerns alongside their interest in digital materials and adaptive technologies.

When it comes to factors that influence faculty decisions about course materials, faculty’s own assessment of the course materials was top-ranked (97 percent), followed by the cost of course materials for students (86 percent), followed by the comments of students or teaching assistants and also comments from colleagues (tied at 71 percent).

(Next page: Faculty views on OER)

Slightly more than 40 percent of survey participants said student or instructor supplements were important or very important in their decisions about course materials. Only 20 percent said comments and reviews on public websites had a major impact on their decisions about course materials.

The survey results indicate that the movement to digital course materials is evolving, but will likely be a slow process. One-fourth of faculty said they believe the majority of their course materials will never be primarily digital; 9 percent said by fall 2022; and 17 percent said by fall 2020.

Despite faculty resistance and concerns, 69 percent of those surveyed said they have used or would like to use “curricular materials hat make use of adaptive learning technologies.”

The survey data also reveal that “being digital,” in and of itself, was not a key factor in the faculty decision about course materials. Less than two-fifths of the survey participants indicated that digital formats were important or very important for core texts or other required course materials. Four-fifths of the survey participants acknowledged that “digital course materials generally cost less” for their students.

Fewer than 50 percent of surveyed faculty agreed/strongly agreed that:

  • Digital course materials provide significant added value content not available in print (45 percent)
  • Students prefer digital course materials over print (44 percent)
  • They would be more likely to use digital curricular resources if they offered analytics and reports on class performance (44 percent)
  • Digital course materials provide for a richer and more effective learning experience than print (35 percent)
  • Digital course materials have a beneficial impact on student learning compared to print (27 percent)
  • Digital course materials are higher quality than similar print materials (19 percent).

The survey also touches on OER and reveals that 39 percent had never heard of OER, and 36 percent said they knew a little about it but had not used or reviewed OER. Ten percent had reviewed but decided not to use OER, 11 percent were using OER, and 4 percent were using OER in their classes and also making their own course materials available as OER.

Quality (74 percent) and cost (71 percent) are the top issues that would prompt faculty to adopt OER for their courses.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Editorial Director, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura