Assessment of use of online statistics text by students

In MS 150 Statistics an online textbook is used. In recent years due to a lack of demand for printed copies of the text, the bookstore has been directed not to print hard copies of the textbook. Thus the text is only available online. A first concern would be whether students have access to an online textbook. Note that the textbook has been optimized for display on both mobile and desktop devices.

Students were asked, "I had the following personally owned technologies available to me for use in this course."

Technology available to students in statistics class 

Of the 39 students surveyed, 37 (95%) responded that they had some form of technology. Smartphones were the dominant personal technology owned by students, laptops were the second most common. Many students noted access to multiple forms of technology. For those very few students, in this course two students, who do not own personal tech, the college does have student access computers.

Textbook preference: online versus print edition

When the students were asked whether they prefer an online textbook or a printed hard copy, four of five students prefer the online textbook. The survey did not seek to explore why students preferred one format over the other, but cost is thought to be a factor. The online textbook is open access and has no cost, printed textbooks are almost notoriously expensive.

In general, the students have the technology to access an online textbook and at least four out of five prefer an online textbook. Did the students utilize the online textbook? And if they did, was the textbook useful, comprehensible, and sufficiently complete to support the course?

QuestionAlwaysSometimesRarely Never
3. Did you read the textbook?3283
4. Did you consult the textbook for help when working on assignments?25121
5. Was the textbook helpful?353
6. Could you understand the explanations in the textbook?24122
7. Did the instructor refer to the textbook in class?353
8. Did you study other books in this subject (for example, those in the library)?141518
9. Would you recommend that this class use the online textbook in the future?34211
Row sums vary as not all respondents answered every question

Painting in broader strokes, the students noted that they sometimes read the textbook, apparently usually when seeking help with an assignment. When they did use the textbook, they always found the textbook helpful. By and large, the student could understand the explanations in the textbook. Since the textbook was written by this author and targeted these same students as readers, the explanations were crafted with these students in mind.

One downside to having written the textbook is a tendency not to mention that the material being covered in lecture is also duplicated in the textbook, hence the question on whether I was referring to the textbook in class. Apparently I almost always did.

Whether the textbook was found to be sufficient can be gauged in part by whether the students sought out other texts on the subject. Students rarely, if ever, study other books on the subject. My own guess is that some student who answered "Rarely" were perhaps scared off of answering "Never" as this might make it seem like they did not do something that maybe they should have done.

Although 20% of the students indicated that they preferred a hard copy of the textbook, 89% of the students recommended that the class use an online textbook in the future. This suggests that for upwards of half of the students who prefer a hard copy of the textbook, that preference is a soft preference.  While question nine would have been better served by a yes or no answer, the two students who answered rarely and never might be taken as the only hard preference for a print edition. Ultimately a student could print the online edition to obtain a hard copy. The costs associated with  printing a text that even back when it was required saw weak sales cannot be justified based on the above survey.

Students are able to access the textbook, generally prefer that the textbook is online, utilized the textbook, found the textbook to be helpful, and feel future classes should continue to use the online textbook.


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