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Online Versus Hardcopy Textbooks

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Science  02 Mar 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5816, pp. 1220
DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5816.1220a

Seven years (2000–2006) of analysis of 1751 introductory lab science students in 10 separate semesters at Arizona State University reveals no statistically significant differences in class performance between online (81.2 ± 11.0) and hardcopy (80.8 ± 10.8) textbook users. In a required physical geography lab science class, students were given the option of using either an online (n = 760) or a hardcopy (n = 991) text to reinforce learning such topics as Wien's law, invading species, dissolution of minerals, Chezy-Manning equation, and glacial processes. By any measure, the hardcopy texts were more sophisticated than the online alternative, even though the basic information remained similar. Yet, even after disaggregating data into different semesters, texts, disciplines, class, GPA, age, ethnicity, and whether the student is a first-generation college student, no statistically significant differences emerged. Given the importance of required lab courses in shaping opinions of college-educated citizens about the importance of science, and given the growing resentment expressed by students over increasingly high-priced textbooks, similar studies in other general education lab science disciplines would seem justified.

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