What has changed as a result of having an e-book reader?

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.

Ming Nie

2 May 2010

Leave a comment


  1. I believe the finding that the reader “has encouraged students to study ‘at times when they don’t feel particularly inclined to study'” is signficant. In distance learning, the motivation, persistence, and engagement factors are so important. When you have students whom are just trying to “squeeze in study,” something that assists that engagement may make a lot of difference with retention and completion rates. Cheers!

    • bdra

       /  May 4, 2010

      Yes, this is an exciting finding. Before the study, we antiticpated that students would use their e-book readers in differnt places, especially when they’re on the move, however we couldn’t tell for sure that the device would really help them to squeeze time for study. Now we have many examples in which students told us, for example, how they have to allocate weekends for study befire, and now with the e-book reader, they can spend more time to do more study during the day, and spare the weekends for families or other activities.


      • Ming, I am taking a course right now with two thick coilbound books, one larger in size of paper than the other. Also, I need to go back and forth between the books. It is just not convenient to lug them around to where I might read. Even with the vehicle and at home, the books are not sturdy and comfortable to read on the lap (flops around). I haven’t used a reader myself, and the IPOD is too small, but I trust that the ease of handling, light weight, thickness (thinness), and general “portability” make it a pleasure even if not as convenient as an IPOD or similar small sevice.


      • bdra

         /  May 6, 2010

        Tony, one of the challenges we face is the IPR and copyright. So far, we only succeeded in making one of the textbooks in Sociolinguistics available for our Applied Linguistics and TESOL students. The e-book reader could have been more useful if we could make all essential readings including core textbooks and journal articles on the e-book reader.


  2. I know that time will be a factor, along with writer willingness, but it sounds like a need for more Creative Commons licensing for Open Educational Resources!


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