Psychology students to present on cheaper textbook alternatives at national conference

A group of University of Cincinnati seniors in the psychology program will nationally present their comparison of educational technology alternatives to purchasing college textbooks that can run into hundreds of dollars per academic quarter. Their research as part of the statewide Ohio Digital Bookshelf Project will be presented on Monday, Feb. 14, at the national EDUCAUSE Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

The Digital Bookshelf Project is an initiative under the University System of Ohio (USO) Strategic Plan for Higher Education to develop a high-quality, affordable, flexible system of higher education with a wide range of educational options. The Digital Bookshelf Project is exploring educational textbook alternatives including e-texts and other technology alternatives aimed at reducing student costs.

The 11 UC students who took part in the research project compared the value and educational quality of a current $168 freshman textbook with the draft of a new textbook that they could get free on the Web, along with what they could find through online search engines. The students — all senior members of UC’s chapter of the Psi Chi international honor society of psychology students — conducted their research last autumn.

“For our generation raised on the Internet, online searches for class materials often replace purchasing the textbook,” explains presenter Libby Cates, one of the student researchers and president of the UC Psi Chi chapter. “So, our primary research question was: Can students depend on what they find when they Google key terms? Secondly, we wanted to see what benefits are delivered through textbooks in their various forms.”

Under the guidance of Ohio Digital Bookshelf Project researcher Charles Ginn, associate professor of psychology, the students reported, “The materials found on Wikipedia were accurate and thorough, perhaps excessively thorough for an introductory course. These summaries were equal to or exceeded those found in the two textbooks.”

Students also found that the free e-textbook and lower-cost print materials all provided similar learning support. They suggested that a combination of digital and print materials were most supportive of student learning.

Ginn and Digital Bookshelf Project leader Stephen Acker, research director of OhioLINK’s eText Project, will also take part in the student project presentation in Washington, D.C. The UC Psi Chi student researchers presented their research on the state level before the Ohio Board of Regents last month.

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