Students and Ebooks
27 October 2009 6 Comments
I have been meaning to report on the outcomes of a question I set in the final theory exam of our CORE subject Information Technology 1 in our May 2009 semester. This subject is taken by virtually all students enrolled in my university at some stage in their degrees. The short answer question was:
There appears to be a trend for printed text books to be replaced by electronic books that must be read on digital devices. Indicate whether or not you are in favour of this trend. Give several reasons for your choice.
I was about 150 scripts into marking the total of 372 scripts and I happened to tweet my impression of the answers to that point:
This sparked a positive response from Peta who discussed it with her fellow librarians. Because of this interest a proper count of the students’ answers was in order to confirm if my first impressions were accurate. I decided to put each answer into 5 categories:
- For: answer and reasons given were wholly in favour of ebooks replacing printed books
- For-but: in favour overall but recognised some disadvantages that were described in the answer
- Neutral: neither for or against with reasons given on each side
- Against-but: not in favour but recognised some advantages to ebooks
- Against: answer and reasons given were wholly against the use of ebooks
In the end, my first impressions proved incorrect although the result was close. Combining both ‘for’ categories and both ‘against’ categories the numbers are 50% in favour and 44% against with 6% in the neutral category.
The more detailed results show that 17% of students recognised that the choice was not entirely clear cut and there were both advantages and disadvantages with ebooks.
So as far as this particular class of students is concerned ebooks are favoured by a small majority. Hopefully our librarians can take something useful from this result. For the record I place myself in the ‘For but’ category.
Postscript: I tried to use Twitter search on this day (27 October 2009) to find my original tweet to no avail – it turns out that 19 August 2009 is too far in the past for Twitter! Fortunately our institutional Yammer service was quickly able to find my tweet text (use of the #yam hashtag), but did not provide the unique link to the Twitter tweet. Using Google search with a phrase from the tweet returned a single result from dipity.com (maybe the recently heralded Google Social Search would have helped me). This dipity service keeps a timeline of chosen social network activity. I had all but forgotten about them except they emailed me about updated features this week. Going back to 19 August in my dipity timeline shows the tweet in all it glory together with the Twitter status link. Well done dipity.
PPS Update: Google just announced general availability of experimental Social Search