It’s a problem schools must solve: Many undergraduates hate reading.
For years, teachers at good public and private schools have been perplexed about how to help students find joy in a good novel, story or work of creative nonfiction. Many introduce topical texts, movie tie-ins, shorter and shorter works and, of course, the greatest story-tellers, speakers and sentence-crafters they know. Still, students complain over the shortest assigned reading.
But students’ reluctance to reading matters. Non-readers suffer in school and on the job. Reading often — and taking on challenging texts — makes swifter, stronger readers, capable of gleaning necessary details from a textbook or careening through a relevant Wall Street Journal article. It also affects many other skills. And those who don’t read lack models for writing. Those who don’t write well can suffer academically or not perform well in many professional contexts. Just ask managers of recent graduates.
Developing technologies have the potential to rescue reading for the future. Enhanced digital course materials that offer personalized learning and support can bring students back to reading.
In higher education, companies like LoudCloud offer several options growing in popularity. It combines open educational resources (OER) with courseware that include e-text, self-grading quizzes and videos. Students can use digital tools to highlight text or make comments with notes. Teachers can access those notes to find out how students are engaging with the text.
“These students want simple interfaces for their content that provide enhanced reading experiences,” said Sesha Bolisetty, vice president content operations for Barnes & Noble Education, which owns LoudCloud. “That’s why we included features such as highlighting, note-taking and flash cards into the eBook portion of our Courseware. We also created a built-in functionality that allows students to highlight topics they need help with and send notifications to their professor.”
In the past, it’s been very difficult to assess reading skills. It’s a silent, independent process — especially in college. Enhanced digital course materials with quizzes and tracking capabilities allow teachers to “peek inside” a student’s mind and see how they’re responding to material. It takes the guesswork out of knowing when students are prepared for class and it allows teachers to target specific concepts or ideas for review or discussion in class based on students’ needs.
In the development of reading skills, enhanced digital materials serve as a bridge. Many reluctant college-age students are struggling readers who need to develop the habits of strong readers. Enhanced digital learning materials make that easier and more intuitive for them. Example: strong readers reread. They review confusing passages and they don’t feel humiliated when they fail to understand something immediately. Less experienced readers, by contrast, give up quickly when they’re confused. They become discouraged and blame themselves or the author for their inability to grasp the meaning quickly. This can make reading a challenging text an exercise in frustration. Strong readers interact with a challenging text— usually by way of taking notes. Weak readers remain passive.
Enhanced digital learning materials can turn students into better, more engaged readers who reread passages, take notes or seek help to understand the material. In a collegiate environment, it can help students cultivate habits that will serve them throughout college and beyond.