Student Engagement with Interactive Engineering Textbook Reading

Published American Society for Engineering Education, 2023


Chelsea Gordon
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Dr. Adrian Rodriguez
University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Alicia Clark
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Mr. Bryan Gambrel
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Ms. Linda Ratts
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Jennifer L. Welter

Dr. Ryan Barlow
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Dr. Yamuna Rajasekhar
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Dr. Nikitha Sambamurthy
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Lauren Fogg
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Jamie Emily Loeber

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Engineering courses have seen a rise in the usage of online textbooks, especially in response to

the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for classes to be remote. Some of these online textbooks

contain learning questions, video media, animations, simulations, 3D tools, and other interactive

elements. The goal for these interactive elements is for students to engage through reading,

answering questions, watching videos, stepping through animations, or otherwise participating

with the interactive content. Despite the availability of such interactivity, student engagement is

not a guarantee. Due to time constraints and other pressures, students may opt for racing through

the textbook or skipping the interactive elements entirely, rather than earnestly interacting with

the material. In response, some instructors have tried to motivate reading by assigning the

completion of reading assignments as a percentage of the final course grade. This paper

investigates how student textbook engagement is affected when reading assignments are tied to

the final course grade.

This paper uses data from online interactive engineering textbooks containing short answer,

matching, and multiple-choice questions, along with animations as assigned activities. The

animations show key conceptual information and are viewed in a sequential step order. All steps

must be viewed in order to receive credit. For this paper, we measure student engagement

through activity completion percentage. We describe the various components of interactive

engineering textbooks, outline a definition of engagement, and summarize overall textbook

engagement data. Across three engineering textbooks (Callister’s Materials Science and

Engineering: An Introduction, Nise’s Control Systems Engineering, and Irwin’s Basic

Engineering Circuit Analysis), we confirm a significant positive correlation between student

engagement and the percentage of final course grade awarded for completion of assigned

activities. Assigning any percentage at all corresponds to over a 35% increase in content

completion, and the higher the assigned percentage, the greater the completion increase. These

results strongly suggest that instructors should assign course credit for completion of interactive

textbook material if they want students to read and engage.

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