Don’t Be Illusioned: East Should Continue To Use Paper Textbooks

Ever get a strained back when you walk from one class to another, carrying a heavy book bag? Ever struggled to fit the materials you need for each of your courses in your backpack, thinking of different ways to stuff it all in? 

Some may believe that online textbooks are a better substitute for eliminating said annoyances: after all, what could be the difference, other than the fact that it is on your computer screen? The contrast between the two, in actuality, is plentiful. You simply learn better from printed textbooks, so they are not worth getting rid of in favor of eliminating said nuisances.

For starters, eye strain from looking at an online textbook for an extended period can hinder your comprehension, especially when you are looking over digital pages to complete rigorous homework assignments and prepare for exams, quizzes, and projects. 

Additionally, online textbooks present additional distractions that may disrupt your ability to concentrate on the assignment at hand. Games, social media, and YouTube are only a click away on your computer screen, creating a temptation that may slow a person down when trying to read a textbook and complete assignments at their own pace.

I have been guilty of this multiple times. When I have played Google extension games instead of reading one of my textbooks, it has taken me much longer to complete the assignment. 

Researchers from the University of Maryland also support the claim that people learn better from physical textbooks. Education psychologist Patricia Alexander, a literacy scholar at the university, and Lauren Singer, a doctoral student, collaborated on a study to examine the differences between printed and digital textbooks. The results favored printed copies.

Their 2016 experiment had 90 undergraduates read informational texts on a computer and in print. Alexander and Sing then observed a difference in the amount of information the students absorbed. 

While students in the experiment performed equally well when describing the text’s central idea, print readers had the edge when asked to detail additional vital information regarding the text.

The students themselves did initially know about the experiment’s results, and 69% of them consequently believed that they had performed better after reading on a computer. A significant factor that led such a high percentage of the students to believe that they understood the online textbooks’ content better was the speed at which they read online. Since they read the text faster online than with the physical copy, they succumbed to the “illusion” that they learned more from the digital text.

Overall, in a digitalized world where humans retain a wide variety of information online, we often look past the true effectiveness of learning from physical resources. We should not ditch physical textbooks just because they are a nuisance. And, even though some may believe that they retain information better online or even do retain information better online, most people learn more effectively with a good ol’ book. Don’t let the illusion trick you!