One of the technologies that we incorporated into three Masters’ distance learning programmes in the DUCKLING project is the e-book readers. We are interested in finding out in what aspects students’ study habits changed as a result of having an e-book reader.
All the students on these Masters’ programmes are work-based learners. They are all in full-time employment. A baselining study conducted at the beginning of DUCKLING showed that most of the students lead busy and demanding lives. They travel a lot and struggle with squeezing in enough time for study.
Our findings showed that the e-book reader suits the life-style of our work-based distance learners. It has increased the flexibility and mobility of student learning, and enabled students to fill in the gaps and do more reading of course materials during the day.
Our findings showed that students highly valued the portability and flexibility that the e-book reader offers. They used their e-book readers in various ways. Some used their e-book reader at home or in the office. Many used it in public places (such as in a Café) and on the move (such as on a train, bus, plane).
The small and compact size and lightweight of the e-book reader make it suitable for carrying around and easy to use in public places and on the move. The readability of the e-book reader under different conditions makes it suitable for outdoor use. For students who do not enjoy reading from a computer screen, an e-book reader can be a good alternative. Accessing all course materials from one piece of device without the internet connection is an advantage perceived by many students. Long battery life, capacity to accommodate many books and user-friendly interface were also considered as advantages that make the e-book reader appealing to use outdoor or on the move.
Findings also indicated that the portability and functionalities of the e-book reader make it easier for students to take with them anywhere and read whenever they have a minute. We had many examples of students using their e-book readers during commutes, breaks and waiting times.
In students own words, the e-book reader has helped them to ‘squeeze in study’ whenever they have time. It has encouraged students to study ‘at times when they don’t feel particularly inclined to study’. It has ‘filled dead time’ and given students ‘the opportunity to fit in study during periods that may suddenly become available’. The Bookmark and Continue reading functions make the e-book reader extremely easy for students to “turn it off and restart where they left off”. This also increases the chance for students to use their e-book readers during their breaks or on the move. In summary, the e-book reader has helped to ‘optimize students’ time to the maximum’.
In my next blog, I will share more findings about what has changed as well as what hasn’t changed as a result of having an e-book reader.
2 May 2010