With July quickly fading to August, back-to-school shopping is becoming a reality students must finally consider. While this may entail finding textbooks, many students may shrug off the heavy lumps and opt for digital options.

VitalSource Technologies — an educational technology company — recently announced the results of its fifth annual survey on the impact of technology in education. The survey reported that 78% of students frequently read course materials with a device. This percentage is up from 48% of students who read digital course materials from devices in 2011.

Cindy Clarke, Vice President of Marketing of Vital Source Technologies, Inc., says that the company began looking at a study using a third party, Wakefield Research, to examine trends in student uses of technology.

“We’ve been watching very carefully because it impacts how we evolve our own products,” says Clarke regarding the implications of student device usage.

Clarke believes that educational technology has been rapidly evolving. However, she believes that there has been a lag in technological use in the classroom.

“While educational technology is getting faster and better and cheaper,” she says, “it feels like education maybe is not keeping up with the pace that students expect.”

Though not all teachers incorporate digital texts, some teachers have started incorporating electronic-friendly options.

Mika LaVaque-Manty is an associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan who has incorporated digital reading materials for around ten years. His 100-level political science class — Introduction to Political Theory — incorporates digital readings in PDF format, and students have the option to bring the texts to class on an electronic device.

One reason that he offers digital texts is for accessibility. He believes the ability to search quickly through many pages of texts for a quote, concept or idea is much more efficient with digital technology than with a physical texts — implying digital texts are the pinnacle of future research methods.

“Down the line, I think that our research practices are going to change, and so I want students to start thinking about what it means to take notes in terms of digital,” he says.

LaVaque-Manty cited costs as the other reason for providing digital options. He says that college costs so much that he wants to minimize what students have to pay for texts. While reading digitally isn’t always free, or requires the ownership of a tabloid, smartphone or laptop to use, he believes that options like providing a PDF of text for students is frequently less expensive.

While he says that incorporating digital texts has been successful for him, he cites that some of his colleagues haven’t had as much success — particularly those who upload PDFs and then require students to print for class.

“I just tell [students] that whatever format you use ,you bring that to class,” he says. “if you ban it and expect things to be brought to class, then you have a problem.”

Allowing students the option to either bring the text to class or via their devices may be the ideal option. It’s helpful for Joyce LaLonde — a 19 year-old junior at Syracuse University — who still exclusively uses print textbooks to read for class.

For LaLonde, the usage of a textbook allows her to highlight, bookmark and transfer information to paper. It’s the best way for her to learn.

“When I have been staring at a screen all day on my laptop or phone, it becomes ordinary. I fall into the mundane scrolling at tapping on social media and email,” she says. “When I have a textbook in front of me that is what I am concerned about and what I am fully engaged in.”

She also wants to keep the books for sentimental value. She wants them to be on her office bookshelf so she can “think that this is what got me to where I am today.”

However, while LaLonde believes that print text is the best option for her, she also understands that digital texts can be more effective.

“I think that reading textbooks digitally is more practical. More cost effective, takes up less space, easier to travel with, better for the environment,” she says. “As far as what is more beneficial to learning, I think it is more of a case-by-case thing.”

Lavaque-Manty also believes that whether online or print is ideal depends on the individual. He thinks it depends on whether a student can annotate notes better with digital or hard copy.

However, the political science professor believes that eventually digital texts will overtake physical texts and become the standard. He believes that online texts will allow the opportunity to hyperlink and embed video, learning opportunities that print texts don’t provide.

“It’s going to be the future, and it’s going to be a teaching opportunity for us,” he says.

Source: USA Today College