Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Students love Kindles? Not so much....

The University of Washington has released summary results of a study undertaken to look at how graduate students integrated an Amazon Kindle DX into their course reading. The study is the first long-term investigation of e-readers in higher education. Some of the study’s findings were expected – students want improved support for taking notes, checking references and viewing figures – but they also found also found that allowing people to switch between reading styles, and providing the reader with physical cues, are two challenges that e-readers will need to address in cracking the college market.

From the study:
“There is no e-reader that supports what we found these students doing,” said first author Alex Thayer, a UW doctoral student in Human Centered Design and Engineering. “It remains to be seen how to design one. It’s a great space to get into, there’s a lot of opportunity."

“Most e-readers were designed for leisure reading – think romance novels on the beach,” said co-author Charlotte Lee, a UW assistant professor of Human Centered Design and Engineering. “We found that reading is just a small part of what students are doing. And when we realize how dynamic and complicated a process this is, it kind of redefines what it means to design an e-reader.”
They also found:
  • Students did most of the reading in fixed locations: 47 percent of reading was at home, 25 percent at school, 17 percent on a bus and 11 percent in a coffee shop or office.

  • The Kindle DX was more likely to replace students’ paper-based reading than their computer-based reading.

  • Of the students who continued to use the device, some read near a computer so they could look up references or do other tasks that were easier to do on a computer. Others tucked a sheet of paper into the case so they could write notes.

  • With paper, three quarters of students marked up texts as they read. This included highlighting key passages, underlining, drawing pictures and writing notes in margins.

  • A drawback of the Kindle DX was the difficulty of switching between reading techniques, such as skimming an article’s illustrations or references just before reading the complete text. Students frequently made such switches as they read course material.

  • The digital text also disrupted a technique called cognitive mapping, in which readers used physical cues such as the location on the page and the position in the book to go back and find a section of text or even to help retain and recall the information they had read.

More info at the UW website.
Photo credit: Andrew Shurtleff

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