Study Shows Students Perform Much Better from Textbooks Than on Screens

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As millennials, we have technology all around us in almost every form imaginable. However, a study has shown that this move from the physical to the digital could be detrimental to our comprehension abilities when it comes to reading.

There has been a global shift of moving to online resources rather than using old school text-books. California passed a law meaning that all textbooks must be converted to digital form by 2020 and many other states and countries are quickly following suit. The benefits can easily be seen, better access for everyone involved, it’s much cheaper, much more environmentally friendly and can be easily updated as new information is researched. All of this makes online resources appear far superior to print.

Students would tend to agree, with a study (which can be found here), saw that students overwhelmingly said they preferred and performed better on screens. However, in practice, this wasn’t found to be the case.

The study saw college students in the USA read passages in text and digital forms and then answer questions to show how good their comprehension of the material was between the two mediums. The results showed that the overall broad points of the articles were easily grasped by the students regardless of whether it was print or on a screen. Where the discrepancies appeared was with the more in depth questions, which were seeing if the students had grasped the subtler points of the text; here print outperformed screens by a surprising amount. The reason for this seemed to be due to the fact that students did the work faster on a screen, but this came at the cost of quality and comprehension of the text.

They also found an interesting correlation when looking at readings that were longer than a page where print once again came out on top; this has been attributed to the “disruptive effect” that scrolling has rather than turning over to a new page.

So what does this show? If you want to have a quick overview of a topic, then digital is the way to go for you, whereas if you need an in depth understanding of a subject, you better check that book out of the library.

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