Volume 5, Issue 3 
September 2003

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Continuing eBook Classroom Studies

Susan Wiggenhorn, Richard Bellaver

Ball State University

a student using the ebook equipment in a classroom setting

Acceptance of eBooks improves at Ball State University. Improvement of visual quality and "no testing" helps a higher percentage of graduate students recommend eBooks for further classroom use. Many students found reading text material "satisfying & easy." More studies planned for the K-12 population


In the Spring Semester of 2002, over 90 graduate students in the Center for Information and Communication Studies at Ball State University used eBooks. (UPA Voice, January 2003, www.upassoc.org.) The study concluded that students could "learn" as well using eBooks as using hard copy books, as indicated by quiz grades. Additional recommendations were listed under General Recommendations and Suggestions for Further Research:

"This study does not confirm the original work done on eBook acceptability. Students had to work with very difficult representations of the text in eBook format during this experimentation. Even so, they were able to do as well on the quizzes as their non-eBook fellow students. This success did not prevent 100% of the Black & White users and 50% of the Color users to "not recommend" their use to others. Considering the text representation they had to work with, we don't blame them. However, the authors conclude that the eBook has some potential as a device to be used by college students, provided the conversion techniques can be found to use the capabilities of the REB 1200. Based upon continuing funding through the iCommunications grant from Eli Lilly Foundation, we recommend that further research take place on the REB 1200 platform with our newly reconverted media. This report documents that further research."

Latest Study:

In the Spring Semester 2003, a total of 66 students used the REB 1200 color for all their reading material for the Human Factors class. These students were rather technology sophisticated with 90% claiming experience with two or more operating systems and virtually all the hand held control devices. The material consisted of a representation, with color and all pictures and illustrations, of Designing the User Interface by Ben Shneiderman, a reading packet of 16 magazine articles, and 175 pages of an out-of-print ergonomics book. (Shneiderman's book had been used by the previous class, but in black and white without the graphics.) The students used the eBooks as they would have a hard copy book. There were quizzes and a final examination as well as a research project as measurements of student learning. There were no comparisons of learning, i.e., book versus eBook, since all students used eBooks. The research looked at the usability and acceptability of the technology. The questionnaire (a modification of the University of Maryland User Satisfaction Study) and the detailed results are available from the authors.

New Findings:

The mean usage time was less than one hour a week for about 50% of the subjects and one to four hours for the remainder. Findings are available comparing the reactions to specific features of the eBook, i.e., highlighting, dictionary, word search, battery operation, contrasts and stylus. In most cases the subjects found the features more usable than useful. Lack of specific training and any testing on dictionary use or word search may have led to these findings. Following are some of the "Overall User Reactions."

  Negative Neutral Positive
Terrible to Wonderful 15 10 43
Frustrating to Satisfying 18 11 39
Difficult to Easy 4 7 57

It should be noted that these results are more positive than the study completed one year earlier. Most significant was the result of 66% positive as opposed to the previous less than 25% positive response to "Would you recommend this device for it intended use?" The primary differences in the test were better visual quality of the content and no emphasis on the "learning" aspect.

Suggestions for Further Research:

The emphasis for further research with eBooks will move from the graduate level to the K-12 arena. The "backpack syndrome," physical damage to youngsters carrying heavy backpacks, has been proved. The need to find an inexpensive portable electronic reading device with large storage capability to replace hard copy books is essential.

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