In some ways, this isn’t a surprise. Students — and all of us really — consume more digital content than ever before, and learning technology continues to advance in leaps and bounds. It makes sense that it’s finally meeting the needs of digital readers.
Still, when asked which they prefer, readers are more likely to choose print over digital content because they rate lower confidence in reading performance when reading digitally.2 So how do we bridge this confidence gap and introduce readers to the more convenient, affordable, and enhanced experience that can be digital content?
Train students on how to read in digital space
The research shows training students to read digital content effectively and engage with the material results in better comprehension performance and increased confidence in reading abilities.3 As you begin a new class, consider the following digital reading strategies so students can be more successful in your course.
Walk through capabilities and features
Take some early class time to quickly walk through the digital content you’re using. Demonstrate how to highlight passages and take notes, and point out the layout of the content like important headings. This way students will know what features are available and will be more inclined to try them out to personalize and enhance their reading.
Provide clear reading objectives
Yes, this is a best practice whether students are reading print or digital content. But, with digital content, students tend to skim and read faster while retaining less information. You can turn that around by helping them make their reading time more intentional, encouraging them to take notes or incorporating reading check-ins.
Make reading a social experience
In my courses, I’ve assigned reading groups of 3-4 students and provided guided questions to use when they meet to discuss the reading. If it’s a capability of your digital content, have students share their digital notes with their peers. Also, consider sharing class statistics, if you have them, about how time spent reading correlate to grades in the course to help motivate students to read more.
Benefits of using digital content
Effective digital textbooks aren’t simple digital replicas of the print textbooks. Digital content has to be designed for the digital reading experience for it to measure up to traditional print. And, with that reimagined content, comes certain new advantages.
Digital content can include interactive technology to bring material to life in more dynamic digital media like video. It also allows for automated, individualized feedback on readers’ practice and assessments.
It also provides more choices to help students personalize their learning experience. Some digital formats include highlighting tools, notetaking right within the text, the ability to change the typology of the copy, and audio versions to hear rather than read the content.
Lastly, new formats can be more accessible and affordable than traditional text, providing choices and opportunities to more of your students.
Signs of well-designed digital content
As I’ve noted, not all digital content is equal. To ensure your students reap the benefits above, you need to start by choosing the right materials. When in doubt, follow the research. In addition to the features I’ve already noted, here are a few more that are proven hallmarks of well-designed digital content.
- Device compatibility: Ensure the content and features are operable for both laptops and other e-reading formats like tablets and mobile phones.
- Segmented text: To reduce cognitive load, short sections of text should be segmented with visual content like videos, graphs, and images.
- Navigational aids: Content should implement tools for navigating to specific places within text and designed with systemic formatting to help students understand the layout and hierarchy of information.
Start your course off strong
The way we, as educators, interact with our students is changing. We have ability to adapt the ways we teach to better pair with the way students learn. Consider these digital reading strategies as you head into this semester. Small changes can make a large impact on learners in your course and well beyond.
To take a deeper dive into these strategies, watch the webinar recording: Digital Reading in the Modern World. Get more tips to encourage healthy digital reading habits, and don’t miss the answers to insightful questions that came up during our live Q&A.
Also, see The Learning Science of Digital Reading report to read our comprehensive review of the newest research on the topic.