OLD SCHOOL LEARNING

American college students say they would rather study with real books, not laptops

Ebooks, tablets and computer-based learning might be pervading elementary and middle schools throughout the US, but college students are still old-school. A Student Monitor survey of about 1,200 students in 100 American colleges in October found that for almost every type of schoolwork, students prefer to use a book rather than a computer.

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If you combine all digital preferences (including desktop, smartphone and other digital, not included in the chart), they outnumber print, which could be bad news for text-book publishers, who are trying to find a way to stay relevant. But in everything other than scheduling assignments or research (with so many academic papers online, students don’t seem to feel the need for a library), students would still rather use the paper version, by a large margin, than any other single option.

It’s the smart choice. Some research has shown students are able to focus better using print materials to study, rather than digital media. But that might also be derived from the fact that the current crop of college students doesn’t have much previous experience in learning on screens and tablets, says Jordan Schugar, an assistant professor of English at West Chester University, who has researched the topic. Schugar found, using small samples, that college students who read on Nooks in one study and younger students on iPads in another both saw decreased performance on a test of that material, compared to their performance when reading on print.

As tablets improve and become more like books, simulating the page movement and with better note-taking and annotating ability, Schugar says they could become a more viable option for college students.

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