Printing VS digital: a comparison of learning outcomes

Printing VS digital: a comparison of learning outcomes

Some students learn more from print than they do from reading content digitally, according to author Naomi S. Baron in research published in her 2015 book – The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.

Ms Baron’s research looked at 429 university students from the USA, Japan, Germany, Slovenia and India, with interviews conducted between 2013 and 2015.

Students in the study reported that print was aesthetically more enjoyable, making comments such as “I like the smell of paper” or that reading in print is “real reading”.

The students also noted the print copy gave them a sense of which chapter they were up to, so that they could “see” and “feel” where they were in the text.

Other results found print was also easier on the eyes and less likely to encourage multitasking.

So which one yields better results? According to a study published in the International Journal of Education Research in 2013, students in Norway scored significantly better on reading comprehension than students who read digitally. The study, Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension, looked at 72 Year 10 students from two different primary schools. The students were placed into groups, where one group read two texts (between 1400-2000 words) in print, and the other group looked at the same texts in PDF format on a computer screen. Another study, published in the journal PLoS One, found participants scored the same on print and digital. The study, titled: Subjective impressions do not mirror online reading effort: concurrent EEG-eyetracking evidence from the reading of books and digital media, measured young and elderly adults reading short texts on three different reading devices, including a paper page, e-reader and tablet computer. Another study, by Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University, found in 2014 that print readers were better at reconstructing the plot sequence of a short story by Elizabeth George. Half of the 50 readers read the 28-page story on Kindle, and half in a paperback format, with readers then tested on elements of the narrative, including objects, characters and settings. Similarly, a 2003 study conducted at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, found nearly 80 percent of 687 surveyed students preferred reading text on paper instead of a screen in order to “understand it with clarity”.

While print remains a popular choice, keeping costs down is still a priority for schools across the country. Griffith University on its Sustainable Initiatives webpage suggests minimising the distribution of hard copy documents, redesigning paper forms to use half a sheet of paper and creating double-sided forms, and using word template forms to avoid the cost of pre-printed forms that may date. They suggest using electronic versions for policies, technical manuals, employee directories and job postings.

Other organisations, such as Epson, have however endeavoured to reduce costs in the delivery of new office printers. Epson’s WorkForce Pro RIPS was built for organisations that prioritise low running costs. Epson’s new WorkForce Pro R5000 and R8000 Series printers can deliver up to 75,000* printed pages in both black and colour before the ink needs replenishing, equating to 150 reams of paper. Four compact ink supply bags reduce the impact on the environment and save time, while inkjet printers such as Epson’s Workforce models use no heat in the printing process, reducing power consumption by up to 80 percent when compared to laser printers. *WF-R8590 only

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