No matter their major, university, or year in school, most students can agree on one thing: deciding where, or even if, to buy textbooks is one of the most frustrating experiences that college has to offer. But the advent of online course materials is eliminating this obstacle. Four students from across the nation shared their experiences with their textbooks — and told us why access to digital course materials has changed the way they view studying.
One of the most common complaints students have about their course materials is the actual process of acquiring them. Sarah F., a political science student at the University of Missouri, dreads having to visit the bookstore at the beginning of each term.
"There's always a line around the store. The only way you can avoid that line is if you order your books online, but then there's also a waiting period, so sometimes you don't get your books in time for those first couple of homework assignments in class. I hate having to organize all of that and go to the bookstore — it's probably one of the worst things I have to do in college."
But purchasing books isn't just a time waster for students; it's also a heavy financial burden. The College Board estimates that a year's worth of textbooks and supplies can cost the average student a staggering $1,240.1 Zach D., a marketing student at the University of Iowa, has found that, while the cost of textbooks can be frustrating, there's something even worse — the cost of books that go unused. In his experience, the digital course materials he's been assigned have actually been utilized in class and have helped him keep up on his own time, while physical materials have often gone untouched.
"Professors would say 'you need this book,' but then you would find out three weeks later that you don't. It would sit in my room all semester in plastic wrap and I would never even touch it. I spent $200 on this book and will only get $20 at the end of the semester for it, when I didn’t even need it in the first place."
All four of the students we spoke to said that, in their experience, digital course materials have been more affordable than physical materials (Zach estimates they've saved him several hundred dollars this year alone.) And when asked if they preferred digital or print course materials, all four students independently agreed that digital materials were more useful to them. There are many reasons why: at 5'2", Sarah is grateful that, with digital materials, she doesn't have to lug a heavy book bag around campus all day. Jesus, a business management student at California State University Fresno, likes being able to highlight important information in his online textbooks without fear of being docked precious dollars for it when returning physical materials at the end of the term.
Rachel H., a business administration major at the University of Colorado Boulder, has discovered a whole host of game-changing benefits to using digital materials. "It saves time in the first place because you get your book on the very first day and can start studying right away, instead of waiting to get the book in the mail or having to go to the bookstore. And if you're trying to search a textbook for something, you can literally do it with your keyboard. Also, a lot of the Inclusive Access that I have has additional online study materials in it, like flashcards and practice tests. It's extra studying my professor doesn't give me, but is still a part of the textbook, so I can go in and study in different ways that they provide...it's definitely had a positive impact on my grades."
Digital materials also help students by allowing them to learn in the times, places, and ways that work best for them. Jesus has found that, because of their flexible nature, the digital materials he has access to sometimes contribute even more to his success than attending lectures.
"For an accounting class I took, I learned a lot through MyLab™ Accounting. It prepared me a lot for my exams, and I passed because of the digital materials. It was convenient, it allowed me to save time, and I could study anywhere. It was very beneficial, and because of that I'm now trying to stay with classes I know will be using digital materials instead of print books."
As almost every aspect of students' lives becomes digitized, it's no wonder that pairing technology and education works so well for them. A study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation even found that, when students take courses that engage digitally and in-person, content mastery can occur twice as quickly, and pass rates for at-risk students can increase by 33%.2 Sarah is certain that she's enjoyed those benefits throughout her college experience, thanks to digital course materials.
"I'm kind of able to be successful either way, but it's about making it easier for me to be successful. It's about putting everything in one place and keeping me organized — letting me search through and study the materials I need to, and giving me assignments that I can complete online that are more interactive than they would be otherwise. The culmination of all those things make it easier for me to succeed. Students can still succeed when they’re using paper materials, but I think having the digital materials gives us even more advantages and helps us be just that much more successful."
Faculty at over 700 institutions nationwide are helping their students thrive with digital course materials provided through Pearson Inclusive Access. Want to learn more about how you could become part of that group? Get more information today.