This past summer, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) released an in-depth report on their most recent faculty study, titled Faculty Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education (Available for online purchase).  BISG surveyed college and university instructors in Spring 2013 for this report, and compiled the findings to complement their similar series on student attitudes. Since BISG’s previous reports in 2012, how much has changed? Is digital content going to shut down print content? And how comfortable are professors with online education? Though the survey sets out to answer all these questions and more, we’ll go over just a few of the report highlights and help shed some light on faculty attitudes around the country.

  • One of the main findings of the survey was that e-textbooks are still experiencing slow growth. Perhaps students like having something tangible, or maybe professors like to know their students are not surfing the internet in class. There was just a 3% increase to bring the number to 31% of students who have tried a digital textbook (page 5) in the past two years.
  • A fairly equal number of instructors surveyed had never taught a course online (40.2%) as opposed to those who had (38.3%). Interestingly, instructors were quite split over how online teaching affected traditional classroom lecturing (pages 7 & 8); some enjoyed teaching online and preferred it while others strongly preferred the familiarity and face-to-face methods of the lecture hall.
  • If the outcome is the deciding factor in teaching online courses, the results of this study may not help at all: Over 50% of instructors across the board thought class results were similar whether teaching a course online or in person (page 9).
  • What does the future hold? Those who teach in higher education do want to incorporate more digital material into their daily teaching plans. 54% of the 527 instructors surveyed plan to make more use of online/digital material in their courses this semester. This includes integrating more web content in the classroom (nearly 75%), using more publisher-provided digital materials (over 50%), and perhaps adopting digital textbooks (around 35%).

Though the print versus digital debate has no clear winner, there is definite agreement concerning several main learning points: Whether print or digital, instructors absolutely agree that in order for their students to succeed, textbooks—specifically, a core textbook—is a necessity. It helps students engage more, leads to better grades, and helps the instructor teach most effectively (pages 9 & 10). Despite an ever-digitized world, it appears that print textbooks and face-to-face learning isn’t disappearing anytime in the near future.