Study: Student Content Consumption Shifts to Cheap and Digital

Students are using core textbooks less and online study guides more, according to the latest Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education report from the Book Industry Study Group.

At the same time, students are getting better at acquiring course materials very cheaply or for three through illicit methods. They also use a range of digital devices to access content.

[Press Release]

New findings from BISG’s ongoing survey of student and faculty attitudes show students will pay for solutions that reduce study time, improve outcomes

For the fourth consecutive year, a highly regarded studies just released from BISG tracks and analyzes the key trends in how students and faculty members acquire, assign, teach, and consume educational content in multiple media formats. Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education, Volume 4, is now available as a digital report alongside a complementary study, Faculty Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education Volume 3.

Len Vlahos, BISG Executive Director, said “This research has tracked the sometimes divergent student and faculty priorities when choosing course materials to assign or purchase. The impact of digital formats is transforming publisher business models and even the way courses are structured. This ongoing research is vital to helping the many stakeholders in the higher education content ecosystem remain ahead of these changes.”

Student and Faculty Attitudes track the continued acceleration in the scope and pace of technology-driven changes in content delivery. The growing range of technological solutions for teaching and learning has meant that publishers have recast themselves as software companies offering learning platforms. The research also delves into the role technology plays in helping both instructors and students improve learning outcomes. It shows which technological innovations are most valued by students and instructors and where the preferences for print over digital content are most fluid.
The reports offer extensive analysis of several key trends:

— Students report a gradual decline in the use of both core textbooks and learning management systems with a somewhat increased usage of online study guides, suggesting that pedagogical material is becoming more flexible in ways students value.
— Students continue to become more sophisticated in acquiring their course materials at the lowest cost as illicit and alternative acquisition behaviors, from scanned copies to illegal downloads to the use of pirated websites, continue to increase in frequency.
— Instructors report much higher levels of assigned textbooks than do students, while the percentage of students who actually purchase their books is lower still, perhaps as students ultimately are the ones to decide whether the value of a “required” textbook justifies the cost.

The research also analyzes attitude shifts from both faculty and students:

— Students and faculty define and seek value in learning solutions, including technologies, in different ways; it shows how students prioritize reduced study time or better results.
— There are clear trends in textbooks rentals; the study also assesses the impact of Amazon’s entry into the rental market.
— Students use a range of devices are using to read and study digital content; the research includes information on the devices they plan to buy, and when these devices will become adoptable for entire classes.
Technological innovations also drive evolution in the higher education classroom, resulting in shifts in online course models. Some, such as MOOCs, enjoyed substantial investments very recently but have now plateaued. Others, particularly competence-based education, are growing, and the research leads to conclusions about their effectiveness in developing higher-order skills as well as the areas of study where their effectiveness is greatest.

The core study, Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education, Volume 4, consists of two survey fieldings conducted in the fall and spring semesters respectively. Report 1 was published in January 2014. Report 2 incorporates the data from both survey sets and publishes on August 5, 2014. It may be purchased here. Its companion study Faculty Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education is based on one annual survey conducted in the spring semester and is available here. The data from both Student and Faculty surveys is also available via dynamic, online access through the Real-Time Reporting (RTR) portal. For more information or to access the full data set, please contact Nadine Vassallo in the BISG office at Nadine@bisg.org.

BISG thanks Diamond Sponsor MBS Direct, Platinum Sponsors Barnes and Noble College and McGraw-Hill Education, and Gold Sponsors Cengage Learning, Follett Higher Education Group, Pearson, and Blackboard for sponsoring Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education Volume 4 and Cengage Learning and Barnes & Noble College for sponsoring Faculty Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education.
Both studies were prepared by the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. with reporting and editorial analysis by Steve Paxhia with data provided by Nielsen Books and Consumers, used with permission of the Nielsen Company.

About the Book Industry Study Group, Inc.
The Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG) is the book industry?s leading trade association for policy, standards, and research. The mission of BISG is to facilitate innovation and shared solutions for the benefit of all companies and practitioners who create, produce, and distribute published content, and the organizations that support them. Membership consists of publishers, manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, librarians, and others engaged in the business of print and electronic media. For over 35 years, BISG has provided a forum for all industry professionals to come together and efficiently address issues and concerns to advance the book community. Learn more about BISG at www.bisg.org.

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