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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Students Need Slower Pace for Digital Reads

A number of recent surveys indicated that college students would rather read print course materials, not digital. A new study which delved more deeply into reading comprehension both confirmed and contradicted those earlier surveys.

In a report for Business Insider, researchers Patricia A. Alexander and Lauren M. Singer said they first asked students which medium they preferred, then had the students read two items—one in print, the other online. Afterward, students had to identify the main ideas in the texts and describe key points. At the end, students were asked to rate their comprehension of the materials.

Alexander and Singer said students “overwhelmingly” claimed to prefer reading digital materials. Students did finish reading their digital assignment sooner than the printed one. They also said their comprehension of the online material was “better” than print. That didn’t hold up under closer scrutiny, though.

In analyzing students’ answers about the reading content, the researchers found their understanding of the main points was about the same for either medium. When it came to recalling more detailed information, however, students’ comprehension improved considerably with the printed materials in comparison to the digital.

But there was an interesting side note: Some students performed equally well regardless of the medium. It turns out this group took their time in reading online, allowing them to absorb the information.

That led Alexander and Singer to recommend that instructors keep educational goals in mind when choosing formats for course materials. If students are expected to retain more detailed concepts, then instructors should stick with printed works or encourage students to slow down their screen reading.