The Parthenon

E-reading: convenient detriment to students

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Online readings dominate student’s homework assignments thanks to Blackboard and professors’ ability to scan and post selections from their own shelves.

On the one hand, it saves students money, which is always a plus. The system is also a plus for professors considering they don’t have to go through the tedious process of making copies for all their students. It also allows professors to add variety to their reading selections by choosing from multiple books instead of just one.

However, students who have 100-plus pages to read online each week may be suffering from this arrangement. Reading online makes the material more difficult for students to recall because most people recall a section of a reading based on its location in the physical grouping of pages and its location on the particular page.

Reading the text online also takes away the opportunity for students to engage with it by highlighting or taking notes in the margins, as they could do with a printout. Students always have the opportunity to print the pages on their own, but printing that many readings every week is going to get expensive. So expensive, in fact, that it may be more cost efficient for students to buy an additional book.

Therefore, students who read the material online will suffer in class discussions. They will be less likely to speak up if they haven’t taken their own notes on the text or been able to engage with it effectively.

While it is incredible that technology allows us to share readings easily online and to strengthen the variety of readings that professors are able to assign, we have to consider the cost to students’ education.

The easy answer would be to say that students who want to get the most out of the readings and class discussion will put the extra money into printing costs, but that solution may enforce unfair limits on the students who can’t put the extra money into printing.

Though, it would also be unfortunate to keep professors from assigning outside readings unless they printed them for all of the students. But online readings, as they stand, aren’t making the experience as beneficial as it could be for students.

Maybe what is needed is a compromise. Professors should assign outside reading to their students and make that available online, but they shouldn’t make that the majority of the reading students have to do for the week.

If students are expected to read multiple online documents each night for class, chances are they aren’t going to come in as prepared as they could be, and that is unfortunate.

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