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September 14, 2022 • 1 minute read
By: Mike Hale, Ph.D., Chief Learning and Content Officer

VitalSource has long been committed to increasing student success through easy access to affordable content. We also believe that if you can, you must improve learning for students and expand educational opportunities for all learners. Of course, we are not alone in this view and it is the reason many companies have built assessment-rich course materials. 

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Blog > Students Prefer Interactive Study Tools Over Traditional

September 22, 2016 • 2 minute read

Students Prefer Interactive Study Tools Over Traditional



Editor’s Note: This is the third of three posts on VitalSource’s recent study conducted by Wakefield Research.

Even as students are growing more disappointed with the state of technology in their classrooms, digital textbooks are proving to be an outlier as a trusted learning tool, according to a recent survey of 500 college students.

Not All Tech Created Equal
Digital textbooks are bucking the disillusionment trend current classroom technology is facing:

  • 87% of students feel they would get better grades with interactive textbooks, rather than traditional course materials
  • 92% have had professors recommend digital versions of texts and course materials in their classes

To meet expectations, digital text needs to be accessible and have sophisticated features that allow students to get more out of their content. A full 94% of students identified features that would enhance their learning experience provided by digital textbooks, including

  • The ability to take quizzes on information learned during studying (63%)
  • The ability to keep track of information learned during study sessions (57%)
  • The ability to take notes and highlight content in a digital textbook (55%)
  • The ability to set study goals and track their progress (52%)

Students cite convenience of use, affordability and interactivity as the primary benefits of a digital textbook over physical textbooks.

Flexible Offerings
Based on the survey results, students feel any digital textbook adopted by their school must be able to be used in a multitude of ways to be truly useful.

  • 29% of college students read digital books offline
  • 26% of college students read digital books online
  • 45% of college students read digital books online and offline equally
  • 87% feel that digital textbooks are not worth the money if they can’t be viewed fully offline

For this generation of learners, when content moves onto digital devices there is a foundational expectation of richness, interactivity, and access options. The market has for the most part not met these expectations.

For years, the press predicted digital textbooks were coming to sweep away the print, but more recently that narrative has flipped. Now, the impending death of the digital textbook at hands of print is the common refrain. While we agree the print textbook has been stubborn, we reject the notion this stubbornness is based on a basic user preference for the ludicrously expensive ink-on-pulp experience. Love of print textbooks has not been the cause of students’ resistance to digital alternatives.

The blame for that lies in the limitations of poorly executed products and the artificial limitations they have put on student learning. The common “students just don’t seem to like the digital as much” isn’t true and the data proves it. The truth is, “students just don’t like bad digital.”

As many companies rushed to the market to gain a share of print’s sure-to-be crumbling monopoly, a “race to the bottom” cost-wise broke out. We understand cost is an important factor for students—and affordability is one of the pillars of VitalSource’s mission—but it cannot be the only concern. Student satisfaction is based on providing a feature-rich, interactive experience on par with the other tech used in their lives.

Interested in a visual of these results?
Download our VitalSource Student Research Study - Interactive Textbooks and Features infographic by clicking on the button below.

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