Required College Course Content Continuing Move From Textbooks to Digital Materials

More students are reporting that required course content for college courses is steadily moving away from formal textbooks and toward digital materials, according to the latest Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education study from the Book Industry Study Group.

“Required content as reported by students continues to evolve away from one or more core textbooks toward new digital alternatives,” BISG said in a statement (below).

In some cases, professors are doing away with formalized course materials altogether, with 11% of students reporting this as the case as of October 2013, up from 4% in 2010.

The good news for educational publishers invested in digital media is that tablets continue to rise in importance in the classroom and despite low sales numbers more students are buying digital textbooks than before, according to the report.

Nearly 40 of students said that they have bought a digital textbook for a course in the past two years, a proportion that has grown faster over the past year.

bisg student attitudes graph2

Source: Book Industry Study Group report Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education

[Press Release]

College students increasingly report that no formal course material is required; acceptance of tablets is on the rise

The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has just relased the first report in its annual two-part study, Student Attitudes toward Content in Higher Education, available for purchase here.

Now in its fourth year, this study provides trend information and analysis about the ways the traditional print textbook is changing to reflect technological innovation and (or sometimes in spite of) student preferences. Each volume is published annually in two parts: the first each February, reflecting surveys completed the previous fall, and the second each July, reflecting surveys completed in the spring.

Nadine Vassallo, Project Manager, Research & Information said, “Today’s students are becoming increasingly flexible about their course materials selections, and more open to new product innovations than ever before. BISG’s Student Attitudes survey provides the data, analysis, and guidance publishers need to anticipate challenges and identify emerging opportunities in the higher ed space.”

New findings from Volume 4, Report 1, include the following major shifts in content use trends:

From October 2010 to October 2013, the percentage of students who report that their courses require “no formal course materials” increased from 4% to 11%. This change in perception suggests students are becoming more flexible about what they consider “required,” and increasingly substitute alternative materials for those assigned by faculty – or avoiding purchase altogether.

Required content as reported by students continues to evolve away from one or more core textbooks toward new digital alternatives, although open educational resources have yet have to show an impact.

Despite low sales numbers, interest in tablet versions of textbooks is quite strong, especially among students who have already purchased an e-book. Students prefer tablet versions of textbooks over PDF replicas or even print textbooks, assuming at least a 25% lower cost. This finding supports other research suggesting students’ willingness to adopt digital formats increases significantly with exposure.

Some 17% of students reported renting textbooks for their courses. This is down slightly from almost 19% last spring. In October 2013, about 75% of respondents reported they were either somewhat or very satisfied with their rental experience.

For the first time, the Student Attitudes survey was supplemented by interviews with higher education administrators from leading institutions including the University of Kentucky, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University System of Ohio. This panel of was asked to comment on some of the key strategies, issues, and opportunities they face as instructional technologies continue to evolve for a more contextual analysis of the trends in content delivery.

The report, available as dynamic online access via Real-Time Reporting* or as broad stand-alone PDF summary reports, provides practical guidance to companies working to refine their business strategies and better serve an ever-changing higher education marketplace. More information is available here.

Student Attitudes toward Content in Higher Education was prepared by the Book Industry Study Group, Inc., with reporting and editorial content by Steve Paxhia and John Parsons. Portions of this information were provided by Nielsen Books & Consumers and used with permission of the Nielsen Company.

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