The University of Iowa

This is a collaborative research project investigating instructional practices that promote student reading in higher education.

Getting students to prepare for class by completing assigned readings is critical for classroom engagement and learning. However, many instructors are concerned that students do not complete required readings, and research studies have found evidence to support this concern.

Understanding specific strategies that promote student reading would be crucial information for instructors concerned with the lack of reading. Higher education institutions are investing in digital materials, including open educational resources (OER), to address textbook affordability and accessibility and encouraging instructors to adopt it. It takes instructors significant effort and time to develop OER. Knowing effective strategies that promote student reading would be beneficial for all faculty who are in the process of developing digital reading materials, considering switching to, or even sustaining a paper textbook.

The purpose of this study is to understand various instructional practices and student use of reading tools that promote student reading. The results will be used to inform institutional efforts to improve practices that promote student reading and learning.

The primary research questions are:

  1. Do students read more in a course where instructors implement strategies compared to a course with no strategies? 
  2. Among various strategies, which ones are associated with student reading?
  3. Is student use of reading tools (e.g., bookmarks, highlights) associated with their reading?


Only instructors who teach an undergraduate course and have adopted eTextbooks through ENGAGE are eligible to participate in this study. If instructors agree to participate in the research, they are asked to complete a survey and provide a list of required course readings and due dates.

After the semester is over, students’ clicks on the required readings will be collected. Students’ clicks are anonymized data, so they are not associated with any identification of students. 


  • Alison Bianchi, associate professor, Sociology and Criminology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Brian Lai, associate professor, Political Science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Jane Russell, director, Research & Analytics, Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology
  • Margaret Chorazy, clinical associate professor, Epidemiology, College of Public Health.

If you have questions about the research, please contact the PI, Jane Russell at