09 Mar 2018


Students spend a lot of time reading from a screen like from their tablets or computers. They see themselves as digital students because most of them grow up surrounded by these technologies.

Because there are various forms of technology used in learning, like the use of a digital textbook, therefore research was conducted to know the one with greater influence on the student. Research in text and learning comprehension was carried out by scholars revealed that there is a huge difference between reading print and reading from a digital media.

A recent study conducted by Wu and Chen (2011) also, concluded that a majority of university students will begin their research using screen-based text (benefiting from advanced search functions and the like). However, upon choosing the appropriate text they often print it to be able to better digest the text. This suggests that these students have an understanding of how best to find, comprehend and retain a text.

A print text is superior in terms of learning, but it has an effect. The long-term retention of knowledge from screen or print has not yet been studied in as much depth as other factors in this debate.

Reading from screens may create more stress for the brain than reading from paper and in various researches conducted by scholars it has shown that students have grown tired more rapidly when reading from screens (Wästlund, Reinikka, Norlander & Archer, 2005) than from print. Although the cause was not discussed but the conclusions drawn are that when reading for long period of time, paper reading can achieve much greater stamina.

Could Reading a Digital Text Be Better Than Reading Print Texts?

Reading a digital text is faster compared to reading printed texts, people can navigate however they want but the only disadvantage to this is that their actual performance tends to suffer. This is because, when students scroll through comprehension passages in prints, they won’t comprehend as much as they will when reading the text because there is an effect scrolling has on comprehension. Though, the majority of students prefer to read online because it is faster when they’re online.

Students judged their comprehension as better online than in print. Ironically, overall comprehension is better for print than digital reading. The medium didn’t matter for general questions (like understanding the main idea of the text). But when it comes to specific questions, comprehension is better when students read printed texts.


Regardless of the medium students adopt either print/digital, students need to develop their reading, comprehension and learning skills in both areas. They need to develop one set of skills to build their competence in reading and learning from paper, however, they also need to develop a completely different set of skills: digital literacy and navigation skills. Some parents are critical of the use of technology in schools and fearful that students handwriting and learning will be affected (Salter, 2013), however, in an increasingly digital world, it would be irresponsible of schools to neglect developing students’ digital literacy skills.

Recently, it was announced in some schools in the U.S. that students will start learning in touch type is a skill that will definitely pay off in the senior years in terms of saving huge amount of time.

It is important for teachers and students to note that no medium of learning is better or should be highly rated than the other one. Instead, teachers should have it in mind to try and combine the two because the purpose of reading the text should be of importance because there is going to be one medium that works better for a particular purpose. For example, when you’re trying to beat the time to read for an exam for a literature subject, you may consider reading the digital part of the literary texts because this medium is quite faster but when you are reading for the purpose of deeper comprehension, more engagement you need all the available medium both digital and print if possible.

It is important to also note that there are some categories of people who moved from reading print to digital and still understand better. The difference is this; they read slower when they read on their tablets or computer compare to when they read in books. Therefore, for a deeper understanding if you are reading digital texts, it is important for the student to try as much as possible to eliminate gliding through reading texts online.



Article by: Busayo Tomoh


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