London, October 20, 2016 – In the face of rising tuition, a generation of "digital-native" students have headed off to university with high expectations for the state of technology in their learning. To gauge the level of satisfaction in the digital programmes – specifically eTextbook programmes – offered by universities in the United Kingdom, VitalSource enlisted Shift Media to conduct a survey of 866 students from 131 higher education institutions. The survey assesses student engagement with eTextbooks and identifies institutional practices and student behaviours that correlate with high levels of student satisfaction.
The results indicate the promise of digital education and eTextbooks is being fulfilled, albeit unevenly. Beneath students' generally positive responses to their eTextbook experiences, the study found fundamental differences and key factors that influenced engagement levels and outcomes. Training, integration into curricula, and functionality strongly affected student satisfaction with eTextbooks and their universities' programmes.
"Our research shows implementation is critical to the success of eTextbook programmes," said William Chesser, VitalSource's VP of business development and international markets. "Students are more engaged and more successful when they have training on how to use their digital tools. Digital is becoming more prevalent, and we have to make sure learners are adept at getting the most out of their learning environment."
UK Students are Engaged with Digital Learning
Ninety-three percent of survey participants reported using a Virtual Learning Environment, such as Blackboard or Moodle, to access lecture notes or other resources. Seventy-two percent used electronic journal articles or databases.
All participants own at least one portable digital device, most commonly a smartphone, followed by a laptop. More significantly, 89 percent take their devices to lectures. First-year students are the least likely to take devices to class, with 15 percent reporting they ‘have a device, but don't take it to lectures' compared to only 9 percent of second-year students. This may be because students become more digitally literate during their university experience.
Students who take digital devices to class actively used them for learning activities. Ninety percent (90 percent) of students report they had used their device for last minute reading or to verify something in class, immediately before a test, or before handing in an assignment. For 82 percent of students this was a regular part of their learning experience.
eTextbooks are an increasingly important tool in the digital learning environment with 61 percent of all students reporting they used eTextbooks during their university studies. The majority of students borrowed one from the library (65 percent), or received one through their institution (55 percent), while 35 percent purchased a copy for themselves.
High Student Satisfaction
Overall, students are highly satisfied with institutional eTextbook programmes. Eighty-eight percent of students who have used an eTextbook would recommend them to a friend. Increased use raises those figures even higher. Among those who frequently use institutionally provided eTextbooks, 98 percent would recommend them to a friend.
More than three-quarters of respondents (78 percent) were satisfied with ease of access to their eTextbooks. This is especially true of content that can be accessed offline. The highest-ranked benefit students report is that eTextbooks are "less stressful – I can access my book any time I need it." The second most common benefit is they are "more convenient – I could download it on to my device."
Almost as many, 73 percent, are satisfied with how easy eTextbooks were to use.
But, based on the responses, there is still room for improvement. Students were less satisfied with the amount of multimedia content available in eTextbooks, with just over half the respondents rating 7 or more out of 10, and upwards of 40 percent dissatisfied. But the way lecturers use eTextbooks was the item students were least satisfied with, with 48 percent of respondents dissatisfied.
VitalSource Technologies Inc., part of Ingram Content Group, is improving the learning experience by making it easier to create and deliver effective and affordable content. The preferred choice among educational institutions and companies for digital learning materials, VitalSource helps over 1,000 educational content providers create and deliver seamless interactive learning experiences through its exclusive Bookshelf platform to millions of learners at 7,000 institutions. Bookshelf users opened more than 18 million digital textbooks last year and read more than 2 billion pages.