The vast majority of chemistry students — 98 percent — at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) who used an interactive Top Hat Textbook would choose it again over a print alternative, according to a recent summer semester pilot project that focused on online textbooks.
In the survey, students praised affordability and clarity. “Better than selling my soul to pay for the actual textbook,” said one UTRGV student.
“I’ve been exposed to the world of online textbooks. What I like about Top Hat is that there are integrated questions that help you grasp ideas a lot better. I feel like it helps me more than Sapling with PDF textbooks [the existing solution],” said another.
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A total of 89 percent of the students in the survey agreed that questions in class helped them engage and pay attention, nearly half “strongly.” 91 percent said that they it was easier to learn from the interactive text than a printed textbook.
The pilot was set up by Tina Thomas and Sylvia Diaz, chemistry professors at UTRGV, who were looking for new course content to increase textbook usage and engagement. They found that few students purchased the assigned physical textbooks, and out of those even fewer read them before class.
The two professors decided to introduce the General Chemistry Top Hat Textbook, with its embedded videos, animations and quizzes, to help students engage with and learn course material. Thomas, in partnership with Diaz, ran an 80-student pilot to compare the effectiveness of the interactive General Chemistry textbook to the required traditional textbook.
Thomas used the Top Hat instructor app on her iPad, and drawing with a stylus pen, she presented problems and formulae to her students, helping to make sure they understand the material.
The results were clear-cut: Students overwhelmingly preferred learning using Top Hat Textbook.
The participants in the survey were a mixture of first-timers who had never taken a university course before, and more experienced students.
UTRGV will use the results to assess future required textbooks for the 2,200 students enrolled in general chemistry across the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses.
Download the full study results here.