Students perform well regardless of reading print or ebooks: Study

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Students do equally well on a test whether reading from a digital book or a printed one, a new study has found.

Research by an Indiana State University doctoral student surveyed more than 200 students. Half of the students used a tablet to read a textbook chapter while the other half of the students read from a printed textbook chapter.

The students then took an open book quiz with eight easy and eight moderate questions on the chapter.

"Few people have done a lot of research into what I'm doing. Mine directly ties performance with perception by undergraduates," said Jim Johnson, who is also director of instructional and information technology services in the Bayh College of Education.

Johnson's research specifically examined three questions: Are there any significant differences in reading comprehension test scores of students when using paper texts versus digital texts? Are there any differences in reading comprehension test scores with regard to gender or between text formats and gender? Is there a relationship between the hours of experience using tablet computers and reading comprehension test scores among study participants?

"No matter what the format, no matter what the preference, they did well. It was interesting that the gender didn't matter on the test scores," he said.

Men had a mean score of 12.87 out of 16 while women had an average score of 13.60 out of 16. Students age 21 had an average score of 13.87 out of 16 while students 25 and older had an average score of 13.5 out of 16.

He also found that there was no significant difference on test scores whether or not the participant had past experience on a tablet.

"The delivery method didn't make any difference," he said.

Of the participants, 88 percent said they had read books on laptops, netbooks or desktops while 51 percent said they had used a tablet, smartphone or other devices to read books.

Additionally 36.1 percent said they used a cell phone to look at digital texts.

However, some problems remain in the digital textbook market. Students expressed concern about eye strain from reading text on electronic devices.

Johnson said one participant became so nauseous reading the digital text that she was unable to complete the study.

Students also expressed concern about the high price of digital textbooks as well as the battery life, software and reliable technology.

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