New Report Finds Out If E-Books Actually Help In Education

There’s a new report making waves in the world of education technology. A pilot program that gave e-textbooks to 5,000 college students has turned out to have lackluster results. We now know the results of the pilot program thanks to a survey conducted this past spring.

Long story short, many students did not find the e-books to be as helpful as you might have hoped. Many students said the e-books were awkward, hard to navigate, and professors said the students simply didn’t use the collaborative features. Many even said they simply don’t like reading on the devices.

The good news is that the students were very happy with the money saved on textbooks.

Steep Learning Curve

This report does not really raise too many eyebrows once you read it. In fact, adoption of technology in general (let alone education) has a steep learning curve. Bradley Wheeler, the VP of Information Technology at Indiana University, also points out that there is a discomfort factor when new ideas or technology is introduced.

“With technology, many things change with repeated use,” he observes. “People have lots of early first impressions as they experience new things, and then over time you start to see things become more mainstream, as the technology improves and skills and even attitudes toward use improve.”

All five universities that took part in this study are going to be continuing on for the upcoming academic year. Meanwhile, 24 additional universities are also going to start taking part. They include Middlebury College, Michigan State University, and Dartmouth College.

So in the long run, e-books aren’t going away anytime soon and this report is not actually surprising. Call me crazy, but I think these pilot programs are truly the spark that’s going to bring on the real e-book revolution that will be coming to your classroom within a year or two.

The Underlying Issue

But there’s more to this report than just the headlines.

The students were not given one of the most popular devices in classrooms today: iPads. They were also locked into the Courseload platform which, while robust and helpful, is simply not the same thing as the iPad or Android operating system (check out how Android tablets fared in classrooms here). Even for just e-reading. So, in my opinion, they were simply hamstringing this pilot from the start. The results are not surprising and will likely be the same results at the end of next year.

If the schools involved (Cornell, Indiana University at Bloomington, and the Universities of Minnesota, Virginia, and Wisconsin at Madison) were to try this again, I would be genuinely curious if there would be different results if iPads were used.

What do you think? Does the device and platform matter when it comes to e-reading? What about devices in general? What are the first things you would want to do with e-readers? Weigh in down in the comments or on the Edudemic Facebook page anytime!

Image courtesy of UBC.ca. Not from the actual pilot program.