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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Exploring the Use of E-Textbooks in Higher Education: A Multiyear Study | EDUCAUSE Review

Just look at this article in EDUCAUSE Review, published on Monday, October 9, 2017.

Key Takeaways

  • A four-year university-wide study of students' e-textbook practices found that e-textbook use has increased, particularly among younger students.
  • The major barriers — including a student preference for print and unfamiliarity with e-textbooks — show signs of being alleviated.
  • Other factors related to mobile device access and pedagogically effective e-textbooks show little change over the study period.
  • Instructor practices have improved, but there is still room for growth, with implications for focused professional development.

Photo: EDUCAUSE Review
Textbook affordability is a growing concern in the US higher education context. A study conducted by the Florida Virtual Campus found that more than 70 percent of student respondents reported spending at least $300 on textbooks during the spring 2016 term.1 Compared to a previous survey,2 there was a decrease in the "$0–$100" cost category from 9.8 to 8.2 percent, while the "$601 or more" cost category increased from 8.5 to 8.9 percent. To reduce college costs, some students may decide not to purchase textbooks or to simply take fewer classes.3 A recent survey of our students at University of Central Florida found that, due to high costs,
  • 30 percent of respondents said they have opted not to purchase a textbook at least once,
  • 41 percent have delayed purchasing a textbook, and
  • 15 percent have taken fewer courses or decided not take a particular class.
These figures are even more troubling when extrapolating to student performance, retention, and graduation rates.

Various solutions have been proposed to make textbooks more affordable for college students. E-textbooks (that is, books available electronically) have been touted as reducing costs and alleviating the need for students to carry heavy textbooks.4 In 2009, Indiana University pioneered the concept of bulk purchasing course materials from textbook publishers to directly provide books in an electronic format on the first day of a course.5 This model has been adopted by Unizin, a 22-member consortium of higher education institutions in the US. Another proposed solution to reduce costs is e-textbook rentals. The 2016 Florida Virtual Campus survey reported that students shifted away from purchasing lifetime access and toward renting e-textbooks to save money. Despite these proposed institutional solutions, however, less expensive digital materials have not reached mainstream adoption.

A movement, motivated by complex factors, has changed the narrative of e-textbooks within the academic literature. The focus has swiftly shifted from publisher-produced printed or electronic format materials to creating and adopting open educational resources (OERs). At their most basic definition, OERs are materials that are openly licensed, giving users the legal permission to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute the material.6 Examples of OERs range from comprehensive materials such as curriculum and textbooks to individual videos, syllabi, lecture notes, and tests.7 Emerging research finds that students using OERs are no worse in course performance than those using costly materials.8 

To better understand this changing landscape, our research team at UCF conducted three surveys (in 2012, 2014, and 2016) to assess college students' attitudes and practices concerning e-textbooks. Our research was limited to current practices and attitudes, since the university's restrictive bookstore agreement did not permit an institutional-level initiative to broaden the adoption of e-textbooks.

The goal for the initial 2012 survey was to provide a baseline of ownership and use on which to build future research, while the goal of the 2014 and 2016 surveys was to gauge changes that had occurred over time.9 In the 2016 survey, we paid particular attention to e-textbook types and OER.

This article compares our results to previous surveys and addresses three research questions: 
  • What is the rate and types of e-textbook use, and how has this changed over time? Are demographic factors at play?W
  • What are the influential factors to using e-textbooks, and how have they changed over time? 
  • Has instructor integration of e-textbooks changed over time?

Source: EDUCAUSE Review

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