Studies continue to find students saying they prefer printed textbooks over online course materials. New research, though, has found the type of course material may not matter all that much.
The study by Brigham Young University and the Michigan State Department of Education reported students who used open educational resources (OER) online did just as well or better than those assigned commercial printed textbooks. The findings compared the success rates of 5,000 students using digital OER to a control group of 11,000 students using traditional textbooks enrolled in 15 undergraduate courses.
Researchers found no significant difference between the groups when it came to completing a course. In the area of passing with a grade of C- or better, both groups passed at the same rates in nine of the courses while digital OER students did better than the control group in five other courses. In the 15th course, students using printed textbooks did better than those using digital content.
The average credit load for the OER students was 13 in the fall and 11 for the winter, while commercial textbook users averaged 11 credit hours in the fall and nine for the winter. Students using OER enrolled in more credit courses the following semester as well, according to a report in Campus Technology.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars and person-hours have been invested in improving in-class instructional designs, intelligent tutoring systems, adaptive instructional systems, and other design-related innovations intended to improve student outcomes,” the researchers wrote. “The current study demonstrates that at least one noninstructional design option exists that can effectively improve student outcomes.”