Additional research

  • Effects of reading digital and print texts on comprehension and calibration

    Singer & Alexander (2017). Reading across medium:Effects of reading digital and print texts on comprehension and calibration. The Journal of Experimental Education, 85(1), 155-172.


    This study explored differences that might exist in comprehension when students read digital and print texts. Ninety undergraduates read both digital and print versions of newspaper articles and book excerpts on topics of childhood ailments. Prior to reading texts in counterbalanced order, topic knowledge was assessed and students were asked to state medium preferences. After reading, students were asked to judge under which medium they comprehended best. Results demonstrated a clear preference for digital texts, and students typically predicted better comprehension when reading digitally. However, performance was not consistent with students’preferences and outcome predictions. While there were no differences across mediums when students identified the main idea of the text, students recalled key points linked to the main idea and other relevant information better when engaged with print. No differences in reading outcomes or calibration were found for newspaper or book excerpts.

  • Reading on paper and digitally: What the past decades of empirical research reveal

    Singer & Alexander (2017).Reading on paper and digitally: What the past decades of empirical research reveal. Review of Educational Research, 87(6), 1007-1041.


    This systematic literature review was undertaken primarily to examine the role that print and digitally mediums play in text comprehension. Overall, results suggest that medium plays an influential role under certain text or task conditions or for certain readers. Additional goals were to identify how researchers defined and measured comprehension, and the various trends that have emerged over the past 25 years, since Dillon’s review. Analysis showed that relatively few researchers defined either reading or digital reading, and that the majority of studies relied on researcher-developed measures. Three types of trends were identified in this body of work: incremental (significant increase; e.g., number of studies conducted, variety of digital devices used), stationary (relative stability; e.g., research setting, chose of participants), and iterative (wide fluctuation; e.g., text length, text manipulations). The review concludes by considering the significance of these findings for future empirical research on reading in print or digital mediums.

  • Print versus digital texts: Understanding the experimental research and challenging dichotomies

    Ross, Pechenkina, Aeschliman, & Chase (2017).Print versus digital texts: Understanding the experimental research and challenging dichotomies. Research in Learning Technologies, 25.


    This article presents the results of a systematic critical review of interdisciplinary literature concerned with digital text (or e-text) uses in education and proposes recommendations for how e-texts can be implemented for impactful learning. A variety of e-texts can be found in the repertoire of educational resources accessible to students, and in the constantly changing terrain of educational technologies, they are rapidly evolving, presenting new opportunities and affordances for student learning. We highlight some of the ways in which academic studies have examined e-texts as part of teaching and learning practices, placing a particular emphasis on aspects of learning such as recall, comprehension, retention of information and feedback. We also review diverse practices associated with uses of e-text tools such as note-taking, annotation, bookmarking, hypertexts and highlighting. We argue that evidence-based studies into e-texts are overwhelmingly structured around reinforcing the existing dichotomy pitting print-based (‘traditional’) texts against e-texts. In this article, we query this approach and instead propose to focus on factors such as students’ level of awareness of their options in accessing learning materials and whether they are instructed and trained in how to take full advantage of the capabilities of e-texts, both of which have been found to affect learning performance.

  • Exploring the Use of E-Textbooks in Higher Education: A Multiyear Study

    deNoyelles & Raible (2017).Exploring the Use of E-Textbooks in Higher Education: A Multiyear Study. Educause Review [Online].

    • 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.
  • Exploring students' e-textbook practices in higher education

    deNoyelles, Raible, & Seilhamer (2015).Exploring students' e-textbook practices in higher education. Educause Review [Online].

    • A two-year university-wide study of students' e-textbook practices found that e-textbook use has increased and become broader demographically.
    • Lower cost and convenience remain the top reasons students purchase an e-textbook, not the interactive features designed to enhance learning.
    • The instructor's role has not changed significantly in the past two years, suggesting the need for further professional development including increased awareness, instruction, and active modeling.
  • Predicting course outcomes with digital textbook usage data

    Junco & Clem (2015).Predicting course outcomes with digital textbook usage data. Internet and Higher Education, 27, 54-63.


    Digital textbook analytics are a new method of collecting student-generated data in order to build predictive models of student success. Previous research using self-report or laboratory measures of reading show that engagement with the textbook was related to student learning outcomes. We hypothesized that an engagement index based on digital textbook usage data would predict student course grades. Linear regression analyses were conducted using data from 233 students to determine whether digital textbook usage metrics predicted final course grades. A calculated linear index of textbook usage metrics was significantly predictive of final course grades and was a stronger predictor of course outcomes than previous academic achievement. However, time spent reading, one of the variables that make up the index was more strongly predictive of course outcomes. Additionally, students who were in the top 10th percentile in number of highlights had significantly higher course grades than those in the lower 90th percentile. These findings suggest that digital textbook analytics are an effective early warning system to identify students at risk of academic failure. These data can be collected unobtrusively and automatically and provide stronger prediction of outcomes than prior academic achievement (which to this point has been the single strongest predictor of student success).

  • Print vs. electronic readings in college courses: Cost-efficiency and perceived learning

    Ji, Michaels, & Waterman (2014).Print vs. electronic readings in college courses: Cost-efficiency and perceived learning. Internet & Higher Education, 21, 17-24.


    We report surveys of 101 students in two undergraduate college courses about their use of required readings accessed via a university-administered electronic reserve system. About two-thirds of respondents printed at least some readings, although nearly half of the total pages were read online. Most students who printed incurred substantially lower total costs (in terms of both direct printing expense and time opportunity costs) than the projected price of a printed and bound coursepack with all of the readings—thus suggesting electronic provision to be cost-efficient for most students. Respondents reported an overall preference for electronically supplied readings. The advantage of electronic reserves was overwhelmingly perceived to be cost, but large majorities said they usually read more, and learned more, when printed readings are supplied. These findings suggest that university and student incentives to employ electronically supplied readings may be misaligned.

  • E-textbooks at what cost? Performance and use of electronic v. print texts

    Daniel & Woody (2013).E-textbooks at what cost? Performance and use of electronic v. print texts.Computers & Education, 62, 18-23.


    While e-book sales continue to increase, electronic textbooks are not very popular with college students. This may be due to the fact that e-textbooks are read for different reasons and with different strategies than are e-books. Although previous research has documented this lack of preference for e-textbooks, student performance and use of electronic texts has yet to be thoroughly investigated, especially in naturalistic settings. This study examines students’ use and performance on a variety of print and electronic formats in both laboratory and at-home conditions. Although students scored similarly across formats and conditions, reading time was significantly higher in the electronic conditions with this difference increasing for the home conditions. Similarly, self-reports of multi-tasking were significantly higher for electronic conditions in the home condition, possibly accounting for the disparities in reading time. We conclude by urging caution in the rush to assume that electronic textbooks are equivalent substitutes for traditional textbooks and argue for further investigation into the unique ways that students may interact with electronic texts to promote more effective design.