March 29, 2010
To Scroll or Not to Scroll
This weekend Wired Blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on a study from Arizona State University that compared student retention of what they read online vs. what they read in print. The report, titled "To Scroll or not to Scroll: Scrolling, Working Memory, and Comprehending Complex Texts," found that "a scrolling format reduced understanding of complex topics from web pages, especially for readers who were lower in working memory capacity." The authors, Christopher A. Sanchez and Jennifer Wiley, concluded that the way information is presented can interact with learners abilities to affect learning outcomes.
I venture to say that most of us know this to be true without a study to confirm it, but it is nice to know it has nothing to due with generational preferences. :)
It is something I think about nearly every day, especially during budget season when library directors and collection librarians are asked to look into an increasingly murky crystal ball in order to predict the seemingly whimsical rate increases from legal publishers and arrive at a figure that might be close to reality. Print collections are increasingly giving way to digital collections. Our patrons even demand it. But at what cost?
In addition to the ease of access with a digital collection, there are also cost savings involved for libraries which makes the switch even more attractive. When faced with the task of reducing budgets, it is much easier to cut a print subscription that is available in a digital format, than one that is not accessible at all. That is just common sense. But again, at what cost?
Of course, users can download the online material and print it out at their printers. In this case, we pass on the cost of acquisition to that of the paper budget line, or just pass the cost on to the user. And it isn't very green either. If the Arizona report is an indication of how a digital collection can change the effectiveness of an education, what is our responsibility toward our institutions and students? Do we even have a choice? (VS)