At VitalSource®, it is important for us to understand the evolving higher education technology landscape as it relates to teaching and learning. Little data is currently available on the use of technology in higher education in the United Kingdom overall, with most reports being specific to a single university. To address this problem, we commissioned Shift Media to assess the extent to which UK students are open to digital learning - and to measure their satisfaction with institutional eTextbook programmes. Shift Media surveyed 866 students from 131 higher education institutions. 100 percent of respondents owned a digital device and the majority reported that they heavily rely on them for learning, with 89 percent taking them to lectures and 81 percent using them for last minute studying. The survey and associated white paper, went on to explore student engagement with eTextbooks and identify institutional practices and student behaviours that correlate with high levels of student satisfaction.
The results indicate the promise of digital education and eTextbooks is being fulfilled, albeit unevenly. Beneath students’ generally positive responses to their eTextbook experiences, the study found fundamental differences and key factors that influenced engagement levels and outcomes. Training was critical to satisfaction levels, most likely because it gave students confidence and exposed them to the built-in elearning tools such as making notes and highlights which were highly valued by those that used them. Integration into curricula and lecturer engagement raised student usage and overall satisfaction with eTextbooks and their universities’ programmes.
Overall, students are highly satisfied with institutional eTextbook programmes. Eighty-eight percent of students who have used an eTextbook would recommend them to a friend. Importantly for institutions, the research indicated that a well-managed institutional programme could substantially raise satisfaction. Among those who frequently use institutionally provided eTextbooks, 98 percent would recommend them to a friend.
More than three-quarters of respondents (78 percent) were satisfied with ease of access to their eTextbooks. This is especially true of content that can be accessed offline. The highest-ranked benefit students report is that eTextbooks are “less stressful – I can access my book any time I need it.” The second most common benefit is they are “more convenient – I could download it on to my device.” The biggest gripe from students was a lack of multi-media/interactive content in their eTextbooks.
We are committed to ensuring the best possible academic outcomes for students and this research and are excited to share our findings. They suggest best practices for institutions implementing digital learning programmes, and for publishers seeking to improve engagement and satisfaction with their content. Some of the data from this survey have been written about by major global ed-tech publications. For a more thorough dive into the data, our whitepaper on the Shift Media research is also available.