Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Student Preferences for Educational Materials: Old Meets New

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Student Preferences for Educational Materials: Old Meets New

Article excerpt


Today's university students are accustomed to accessing materials and communicating with each other in almost any place and any time. Mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are increasing popular and are used by students almost anywhere they go. According to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, almost half (46%) of American adults owned a smartphone in February 2012 (Smith, 2012), and this trend is expected to continue worldwide. Developments in mobile technology provide new methods for students to access educational materials.

One of the oldest sources of learning material is the paper textbook. Paper books are still a popular choice among instructors and many students still prefer them over electronic materials (Robinson, 2011). In a blend of the old and the new, electronic textbooks (e-books) are one form of technology gaining popularity as the cost of traditional paper textbooks has become an issue for many students, and devices used for reading e-books (especially tablets and e-readers) become more commonly used. Many traditional textbook publishers offer e-books through a subscription model in which students rent access to material for a limited time (Caldwell, 2008; Hacker, 2010). Other companies, such as Flat World Knowledge and BookBoon offer free online materials while earning revenue from selling hard copies of books and extra online materials (such as study guides, interactive quizzes, and podcasts) or selling ads within the books.

For those who would rather listen than read, podcasts provide students with audio materials, and videos provide both audio and visual material. Online or computer-based simulations and interactive lessons can provide activities for those who learn better by doing rather than just listening or reading. Such resources provide new ways for students to learn and interact with educational material.

An important issue in the question of which educational materials are best for a given class is the preference of the students who will be using them. This study examines the different types of materials students prefer, from traditional paper textbooks to various types of multimedia and internet materials. The responses of women and men at the Norwegian and American colleges are compared, as are the results by materials preference. That is, the responses of those who preferred one type of material are analyzed in light of their preference for other materials. The following section provides a review of the literature on different types of materials, including textbooks, podcasts, videos and simulations.


Textbooks have long been used in classrooms from first grade through the university level. In recent years, however, many students have cut down on school-related expenses by not purchasing textbooks, even when the professor "requires" the book (Owuor, 2006; Robinson, 2011). In a study of a small semi-rural campus of a large public university, two-thirds of the participating students reported that they always purchased "required" textbooks, but only one-fourth reported they buy them when the books are just "recommended" (Robinson, 2011). Over half of these students reported that they usually paid between $300 and $500 per year for textbooks, with an additional one-quarter of students paying $600-$700. When asked about their purchasing behaviors, nearly half of these students said they would "think twice" before buying a textbook with a $100 price tag, but only 5% said they would "refuse to buy" a book at this price. At the $175-225 price level, over 70% said they would think twice and approximately 50% said they would refuse to buy the textbook. However, one-third of those students said that there was no price at which they would refuse to buy a textbook. On the other hand, a segment of the students reported they were not likely to read a textbook even if it was provided to them free of charge. …

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