Charles Birdsong, John Chen, Marilyn Tseng, Christine Victorino


In this study, our goals were to examine the implementation and effectiveness of online textbooks in three different undergraduate engineering courses. We compared students’ attitudes and performance using surveys with Likert and open-ended questions conducted at three time points during the academic quarter. In one course, ME 422 (Mechanical Controls), we compared students’ attitudes and performance with a control group that used only the printed textbook. Linear regression analyses for this course indicated significant differences between the online and printed textbook groups, with consistently more favorable scores in attitudes in the latter group. These differences were apparent from the first survey and became more pronounced over time. Significant differences were also found across the three online textbook courses on multiple survey items measuring students’ usage and attitudes (p < .001). Our findings suggest that student interaction with and attitude toward online textbooks differed based on the extent of complex technical interactions involved. The qualitative comments for the most technical course in the study (ME 422) indicated that the user interface and technical difficulties with entering symbolic solutions to the online environment were problematic. In contrast, students enrolled in IME 421 (Manufacturing Organizations), which covered general theory and used more case studies, had more favorable attitudes toward the online system. The remaining course, ME 302 (Introduction to Thermodynamics), while technical, did not typically require more than numerical solution input to the online environment, and showed responses that were generally intermediate between the other two courses. The findings were interpreted with a Technology Acceptance odel methodology and a follow-on study identified several specific technical ease-of-use issues related to negative student attitudes toward online textbooks.

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The ASEE Computers in Education (CoED) Journal
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