June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Educational Research and Methods
22.109.1 - 22.109.16
A Study of On-line Textbook Use across Multiple Engineering CoursesOn-line textbooks are appealing for reasons of reduced cost, inclusion of multimedia enhancements,and other features that digital media offer, such as hyperlinks between problems and supportingcontent. On-line homework assignments can also present unique problems to each student and beimmediately graded to provide instant feedback. Possible drawbacks are poor user interface, lack ofstandards among the various on-line textbook providers, and the need to learn a new way to interactwith a textbook system. In this study, our goal was to examine the ease of implementation andeffectiveness of one such on-line textbook system. We also compared students’ attitudes andperformance across courses using the on-line textbooks, and students’ attitudes and performanceusing on-line vs. printed textbooks in “control” and “treatment” sections of one course.This study was implemented during the spring 2010 quarter in three different courses including atotal of ~200 students. All three courses used one publisher’s on-line textbook system. For one ofthe courses, two “control” sections used only a printed textbook to allow for comparisons with two“treatment” sections of the same course. The control and treatment sections were taught by thesame instructor using the same pedagogy and approach, and with similar lecture periods,assignments and tests.Surveys that measured textbook usage and attitudes using a Likert-type scale were administered atthree times during the term (week two, midterm, and final week). Additional data included pre- andpost-course concept inventories that were developed or adopted for course-specific learningoutcomes. Finally, qualitative student comments were collected in the surveys. Participation in thestudy was voluntary and uncompensated, and had no effect on the participants’ grade. Surveyresponses were examined for differences between the control and treatment sections, across thethree on-line textbook courses, and over time in each course, using mixed linear regression modelstaking repeated measures into account. Student survey comments were coded for common themesand analyzed.Linear regression analyses for the one course with a control group indicated significant differencesbetween the on-line and printed textbook groups, with consistently more favorable scores in thelatter group. These differences were apparent from the first survey and became more pronouncedover time. Significant differences were also found across the three on-line textbook courses onmultiple survey items measuring students’ usage and attitudes (p < 0.001). Preliminary findingssuggest that student interaction with online textbooks differed based on the technical complexity ofthe course. The qualitative comments for the most technical course in the study indicated that theuser interface and technical difficulties with entering symbolic solutions to the on-line environmentwere problematic. In contrast, students enrolled in the course that covered general theory and usedmore case studies had generally positive responses to the on-line system. The remaining course,while technical, did not usually require more than numerical solution input to the on-lineenvironment, and showed responses that were generally intermediate between the other twocourses. The results will inform the design and implementation of on-line textbooks in theengineering curriculum.
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