University of Iowa

e-text book

eTextbook: Research Findings


The Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology has collaborated with the College of Education at the University of Iowa to closely examine how students and faculty use eTextbooks in a variety of disciplines—from accounting to biology.



Main Objectives and Research Goals:


  • Evaluate student and faculty attitudes towards using eTexts, the impact on student learning, and cost savings for students.
  • Evaluate accessibility of eTexts and open content.
  • Learn what enterprise technology support we may need for campus-wide eText efforts.
  • Provide input to publishers and decision makers regarding future sustainable business models that are most advantageous to students.




Student surveys, data mining, qualitative interviews, experimental study


Main Findings:


  • Compared with a group of students who used a paper textbook in matched courses, students who used a free e-textbooks had more difficulty accessing and using their e-textbook and, on average, indicated they wanted to use a paper textbook in the future.
  • We found that 80% of the students in our study purchased and used a paper textbook even though they had access to the online eTextbook when they bought access to the online homework system.
  • Students who used an eTextbook also spent less time engaged in reading. Many of the e-textbook features—designed to boost student learning—were not used by students very often.
  • Although students voiced approval of having a free eTextbook, they were still more in favor of using paper because of the perceived advantages for learning.


Presentations and Publications:


Schuh, K. L., Van Horne, S., & Russell, J. E. (2018). E-textbook as object and mediator: Interactions between instructor and student activity systems. Journal of Computing Higher Education.


Van Horne, S., Henze, M., Schuh, K., Colvin, C., & Russell, J. (2017). Facilitating adoption of an interactive e-textbook among university students in a large, introductory biology course. Journal of Computing in Higher Education.


Van Horne, S., Russell, J. E., & Schuh, K. L. (2016). The adoption of mark-up tools in an interactive e-textbook reader. Educational Technology Research & Development, 64(3), 407-433. DOI:10.1007/s11423-016-9425-x


Van Horne, S., Russell, J. E., & Schuh, K. L. (2015). Assessment with e-textbook analytics. EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research Retrieved from


Van Horne, S., Russell, J., & Schuh, K. (2014, October) Assessment with learning analytics: Combining multiple sources of data to support student learning with educational technology. Presentation at EDUCAUSE in Orlando, Florida


Van Horne, S., Russell, J., & Schuh, K. (2013, October) Factors associated with instructors’ and students’ successful adoption of learning tools in interactive e-textbooks. Paper presented at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Raleigh, NC


Van Horne. S., Russell, J., & Schuh, K. (2013, October) What are the relationships between e-textbook usage and student learning? Paper presented at the Consortium of College and University Media Centers, Chicago, IL