Workshop Five: To e or not to e? eBooks are the question but what is the answer from foundation degree students and teaching staff?
Surprisingly I’m not a massive fan of ebooks. I’ve written about this before so it’s not worth covering again here but I’m still prepared to change my mind… I have been known to in the past. The main reason why I wanted to attend this particular workshop was to discuss ebook usage with others and hear more about their experiences with content (and providers for that matter). I also thought it might help inform some of the work we’re doing with them at my organisation – the ereader pilot and numbers increase project.
The workshop was really an opportunity for Lee Bryant and Sue Capon (City of Bristol College) to showcase the results of their investigation into how ebooks can be used to support foundation degree students and get us thinking about their advantages and disadvantages.
Project background and methodology
The small scale research project, funded by Plymouth University’s Help CETL award scheme, aimed to explore the usage patterns and attitudes towards ebooks in order to identify barriers and inform training. Targeting three subjects – Childhood Studies, Business and Administration and Business Technology - Lee and Sue surveyed students about their IT skills, confidence and knowledge of ebooks and compared results with a second survey conducted after an ebook workshop showing students how to access material.
Results from the first questionnaire suggested that more students would prefer to use ebooks over print material (54%) with 17% of these (18-24 year olds) saying they’d happily read the whole book online. Over 80% of the participants thought that a training session on using ebooks would change the ways in which they study and that their confidence in using online material would increase.
Six weeks later (and post training workshop) students were asked about how many ebooks they used for their assignments, where they accessed them (from home/on campus) and whether they’d be likely to use them again. 14 of the 24 respondents (half the initial sample size) said that they had used ebooks, accessing them remotely (86%) via the LRC catalogue in the VLE (64%). Generally we assume most students prefer to print pages to read them yet astonishingly 86% of students indicated that they read these from the screen at least some of the time.
Of the departments targeted, Business Studies students seemed to embrace ebooks moreover the other departments canvassed. Whether this is because they’re more likely to encounter information technology on a regular basis than Childcare students is unclear but it could be taken into consideration during the discussion.
Some of the perceived advantages of ebooks included:
- 24/7 access;
- searching content;
- no need to visit the library;
- no need to carry heavy books around;
- ease of referencing;
- additional source of information to supplement print.
Some of the perceived disadvantages of ebooks included:
- difficulty reading from the screen (even though most students said they did read from the screen);
- not enough texts available;
- technical issues;
- print restrictions.
Other comments also suggested students preferred the physicality of print books over the ease of locating information in electronic formats.
Research behaviours are likely to evolve as ebooks become more and more prominent. There is an increasing need for librarians to explore, evaluate, promote and implement emerging technologies to support library users, as well as training them to recognise information needs and offer solutions to locate, evaluate, and use information effectively.
More information about this research is to appear as a chapter in an upcoming Facet publication.