Student preferences: Academic Reading Format International Study

computer book

In our previous two posts, Marwan and Joe provided us with an insight into what students at the University of Manchester think about the BRHRN e-textbook provision.  From simple positives, such as the savings made in not having to purchase course textbooks, to more complex ideas about the relationship between reader and text, the preferences of these two students were mixed.

Juliana Ríos Amaya and Jane Secker at the London School of Economics have recently published their findings on students’ preferences for academic reading.  Their report, ‘Choosing between print and electronic… Or keeping both? Academic Reading Format International Study’ represents the UK findings of an international study into student preferences in this area, ARFIS (on Facebook).

In researching student preferences, the authors surveyed 655 students from a number of UK universities.  Their results were divided into two categories: the first looking at behaviours or preferences which reflect student reading preferences; and the second with a focus on learning engagement.

In the first category, 42% of students strongly agreed and 28% agreed that they preferred their course materials in print format.  Looking at the reasons for this figure may elucidate Joe’s comments about the students’ ‘relationship’ with the text: 52% strongly agreed and 28% agreed that they can focus better on the text when in print; 42% strongly agreed and 29% agreed that they can remember information from their course readings when in print.

When it came to convenience, responses were split.  In response to the statement “It is more convenient to read my assigned readings electronically than to read them in print”, 25% of those surveyed agreed, with 27% in disagreement.  A respondent from LSE, in agreeing with the statement, commented that accessing course resources electronically “…saves carrying around a lot of paper”, echoing sentiments expressed by Marwan.  Other comments centred on the convenience in accessing electronic resources on the one hand, and the ease of using printed materials on the other.  Jane highlighted a comment in her blog post  on the findings, where the academic task being carried out influence the student’s preferences.  This tallies with Joe’s comments and his hunt for specific quotes and references.

The ARFIS UK findings also mirror feedback we have received from the BRHRN 2014/15 pilots.  While our students found it easier to read and take in information printed texts, they also found it much more straightforward to gain access to electronic resources, as well as finding them more convenient.  We will be looking at the feedback we received from our 2014/15 pilots in more detail in the near future.

Michael Stevenson, University of Manchester

photo credit: Frank Farm via flickr (license)

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