A study by a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, College Park, surveyed undergraduates about their use of print and digital formats. They were asked to read both the print and digital forms of a newspaper and a book to evaluate their comprehension skills.
The results showed that while 76% of the respondents preferred reading digital formats, 60% retained more information from the printed material. The survey also found that every student incorrectly predicted which format helped them retain information better.
“Students not only picked that they performed better in digital, but they did so with such conviction,” Lauren Singer, the graduate student conducting the survey, told the university’s student newspaper. “That, to me, has bigger educational implications. If we think we do better [in one medium] and we are studying that way, but that’s not really the most productive or useful to us personally, imagine how that’s affecting our classroom success.”
At the same time, Singer found that there is a place for consuming digital information.
“If I’m just browsing the morning news to see what the big stories are, it’s OK, because all you need is the main idea,” Singer said. “But if I’m reading an article for class later and I want to thoroughly understand this article, I’m going to remember more and be able to connect those ideas better when I read it in print. As classrooms change so rapidly, we need to look more at these tasks deliberately, and then pick [our medium] based on that.”