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Survey: Digital Textbooks Gaining Esteem in Student Eyes

Digital textbooks are becoming a bigger part of the vernacular in higher education. A recent survey showed that slightly more than three out of five students use interactive textbooks with features that include video, audio and quizzes; more than two out of five students work in courses that use apps, social media and online productivity tools; and one out of three students has attended flipped classrooms in which they watch video lectures before heading to class. About a quarter of students have attended some form of massive, open, online course.

Of those forms of technology students said the most helpful one is the interactive textbook. Of all the benefits of using a digital textbook, 31 percent reported the top one being that they make lessons easier to understand; 23 percent stated that they help students complete assignments more quickly; and 21 percent said they help students stay more organized.

Digital textbooks are also gaining traction among faculty. Whereas two-thirds of students this year said their professors "frequently recommend" the purchase of e-text versions of textbooks and other course materials, that count was only 52 percent in in 2013.

These results come out of an annual survey conducted by e-textbook company Vital Source Technologies. The research was conducted by Wakefield Research among 500 currently enrolled college students ages 18 to 23 during June 2014 via an email invitation and online survey. There's a margin of error of ±4.4 percent.

The same survey found that nearly half of respondents (45 percent) couldn't go longer than 10 minutes without using some form of technology. However, students are learning a tad more restraint. Last year the average amount of time students said they could go without digital interaction was 59 minutes; this year that has increased to 64 minutes.

Seventy-seven percent of students reported taking at least one online class; and 42 percent said they get better grades that way. Which courses would be better taught online? History came in first, with half of respondents; English was second, with 42 percent; and foreign languages and math were third, with 29 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

Nearly eight out of 10 students also stated that they've had instructors ask them to use at least one social media site; the most popular is YouTube (57 percent) followed by Facebook (42 percent) and Twitter (25 percent).

And although 65 percent of students said they believe social media will eventually be required in all classes, the same number reported that their Facebook accounts aren't "class ready" due to "questionable content."

"The results of this year's survey point to the continued acceleration and adoption of technology in higher education. Students and teachers alike are embracing new ways of accessing information which lower costs and improve academic outcomes in both the physical and online classroom," said Cindy Clarke, the company's vice president of marketing.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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