There has been an increased adoption in digital textbooks over the last few years. Digital books can be more engaging with access to Internet resources and interactive presentations with multimedia, lighter weight than a back pack full of paper text books, and possibly less expensive. Sounds the wave of the future, right?
Well, not necessarily. There are still some kinks to be worked out. In 2011, South Korea announced a plan to spend $2 billion to digitize all classrooms by 2015. In 2012, the country pulled back on the plan. In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced that it would spend $1.3 billion to get iPads to every student in every school. The plan fell apart less than two years later.
A year ago, my team started to look into whether students would prefer digital or print textbooks, and why. We surveyed students at high schools, universities, and online learning sites. We even engaged a focus group with students and instructors so we could drill in depth into their thinking.
The results were surprising. Although many students reported using digital texts, and almost all instructors thought the students preferred learning from digital materials, the majority of the students told us that they learn better from a print textbook! There are many reasons which I won’t get into today, but it turns out that many other research also report the same results – that many digital natives prefer to learn from print!
We took these learnings and have been designing a new learning experience that we call ‘hybrid content delivery’ where the instructional material is delivered via a hybrid digital and print books. With our experience, students get the best of both worlds – the improved cognition many students report they get with print, along with the extensibility and the engagement the students get from digital.