by Elizabeth Dobler
Often the decision to adopt an e-textbook is not made in consultation with students. In fact, e-textbook reading is new for many students, and their experience with print texts far outweighs their experience with digital texts. While writing the e-textbook Teaching the Language Arts: Forward Thinking in Today’s Classrooms with my colleagues, we considered what it’s like to read an e-textbook. Thorough research and consultations with students and editors helped us deliberate on the best ways to organize information, to present web links, and to embed multimedia.
It was through these discussions that the idea for a research study was formed. The study was directed to undergraduate teacher-education students, and sought to answer these questions:
- What are the students’ e-textbook preferences?
- What are their perceptions toward reading an e-textbook?
- How do these students view the role of an e-textbook in their learning process?
The students in the study all had the option of reading either the print or electronic version of the text, or both. I was curious about which they preferred and why. Because the study involved students in my course, reading an e-textbook I coauthored, I did give students the chance to opt out of the study, and some students did so. But, for the most part, students seemed to appreciate being asked for their input.
This month the results of the study are being published in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy in an article entitled: “e-Textbooks: Personalized Learning Experience or Digital Distraction?” The article delves into the need for e-textbook readers to be cognitively flexible as they move between e-textbook and online resources within an e-textbook reading environment.
Without spoiling the article, the big message the results conveyed is that each reader is unique and may prefer different text formats at different times, for different reasons. The study helped me determine that, “because the reading experience is a personal one, students should be offered a choice between print and digital text whenever possible to encourage an engaging and motivating reading experience” (p. 490).