UI students prefer traditional textbooks


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Recent attempts to incorporate electronic textbooks into higher education have proven to be ineffective.

Based on responses from a University of Iowa e-textbook pilot program, most students preferred printed books.

One of the key results in determining the effectiveness of e-books was there was no significant difference in final grades between e-book users and print users.

In the fall of 2012, the UI Information Technology Services and the College of Education joined an e-text pilot project conducted in partnership with McGraw-Hill Education and Courseload.

The sponsors for the project were EDUCAUSE and Internet2. The project was meant to evaluate the transition from traditional textbooks to electronic content.

“We ran the pilot program in 2011 and collaborated with EDUCAUSE in 2012,” said Dana Voss, a program manager at Internet2. “The last project was in the fall of 2013, and there are currently no specific plans for the future.”

The new features that came with the e-textbooks included such functions as note-taking and -sharing and embedded quizzes, videos, and activities.

“The tools in e-books allow students to share information and questions,” said Maggie Jesse, a senior IT director for ITS. “It allows students and faculty to interact within the textbook.”

The study at the UI started in the fall of 2012 and concluded in fall 2013. The cost for the project was $20,000 for fall of 2012, $40,000 for spring 2013, and $11,000 for fall of 2013. The ITS had received most of the information it needed by the end of the spring of 2013, driving down the price for the final semester.

In the fall of 2012, the study involved roughly 600 students in 17 courses. The researchers matched the courses so one class used traditional print textbooks and the other used the e-texts.

In 2013, the project involved around 1,800 UI students enrolled in 25 courses.

Although some of the tools offered by the e-books were utilized, most students did not engage in tools such as bookmarking, annotating, and note-taking.

During the pilot project, the e-textbooks were offered to students free of charge, which sparked an interest in participation. E-textbooks are still available at a cost, but the student’s attitudes toward them remain the same as during the project.

“I used an e-textbook for the first time this semester, but I didn’t like it,” said UI junior Jessica Dennis. “I like to have an actual book in front of me.”

However, some believe e-textbooks have potential.

“It all depends on the class,” said UI junior Mallory Hughes. “Some classes offer more discussion than others. E-books would probably be better in more subjective classes and could help boost critical thinking.”

University officials said they still remain hopeful for the use of e-books in the future.

“We need to better educate faculty and students on e-book tools in order to provide a more beneficial education,” Jesse said.

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