Faculty Give Digital Materials a Weak Hug

DIGITAL SKEPTICS: “The medium is the message,” Marshall McLuhan wrote more than half a century ago, but some faculty today would still disagree. Their top priority when it comes to course content is the quality, regardless of whether students read it in a textbook, skim it on a phone or watch it through Oculus Rift. In a survey released today from The Campus Computing Project and the Independent College Bookstore Association less than two-fifths of faculty participants indicated that digital formats were important or very important for core texts or other required course materials.

Campus Computing surveyed 2,902 college and university faculty at 29 two- and four-year colleges and universities. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • The majority of faculty agreed that digital materials generally cost less.
  • Less than half said that digital content added value to their courses.
  • 55 percent said that students prefer print textbooks to digital.
  • 39 percent had never heard of open educational resources (OER).

The data also reveal an irony about cost and access to digital materials. Although faculty agree that one major benefit of going digital is the lower cost of course materials, many of their students—especially in community colleges—lack the technology to effectively access content. “The students who might benefit most from lower-cost digital and OER course materials are not able to do so,” Kenneth C. Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project, said in a press release. Whether content is OER or not, the survey suggests it’s a tortoise race to make the transition to digital.

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