Student Usage and Behavioral Patterns with ONline Interactive Textbook Materials

Published 2015


Alex Edgcomb
University of California, Riverside

Daniel de Haas
University of Arizona

Roman Lysecky
University of Arizona

Frank Vahid
University of California, Riverside

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Traditional textbook usage is experiencing a significant declining trend in the past few years, whereas online interactive textbook material has a high acquisition and high activity completion rate by students. Interactive textbook materials use less text, and instead use more activities: animations, learning questions, and interactive tools. Each of our online web-based interactive textbooks, known as zyBooks, has approximately 1,000 activities along with text readings.

We analyzed online interactive material usage of two different topics used at two major public universities. 282 students were in an introduction to programming course (CS1), and 299 in a discrete math course (DM1). The CS1 interactive material included an integrated homework system for coding activities. Both courses required the online interactive material and awarded points for completing assigned reading activities.

Of the 583 students total, 99.8% acquired the online interactive material. In contrast, surveys in classes using traditional textbooks (even e-book versions) had only about a 70% acquisition rate. Furthermore, students completed 92% of the assigned activities in the interactive material, whereas traditional textbook usage is typically much lower [Ho2004].

Our analyses showed that students accessed the interactive material 4.5 times per week, averaging 20 minutes per access. CS1 students spent 31% of interactive textbook usage time with activities in the interactive textbook, and DM1 students spent 17%, with the remaining percentage of time assumedly spent reading text and viewing figures. The proportional difference may be due to the CS1 interactive textbook including a homework system of coding activities.

Students valued the interactive textbook as an exam preparation aid. During midterm exam preparation, DM1 students voluntarily revisited and re-completed 33% of assigned reading on average, and CS1 students re-completed 23% on average. During final exam preparation, DM1 students revisited and re-completed 30% of assigned reading on average, and CS1 students, who were given numerous other review materials including two practice exams, re-completed 6% on average. The low re-completion for CS1 final exam preparation was expected because students were given practice exams from which to study.

Overall, using interactive textbook material appears to have reversed the trend of students not acquiring and thus not learning from required textbooks outside of lectures. Instead, interactive textbooks have nearly 100% acquisition rates and activity completion rates in the 90% range. Students spend significant amount of time using the material as part of their studies. Further, students felt they learned more with interactive materials than traditional materials.

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