As the Pandemic Waned, So Did Faculty’s Use of Digital Course Materials

As the fall term approaches, faculty members are finalizing which course materials — books or articles and the ways to find them — to include in their syllabi. To do so, professors sort through their preferences about what format course materials should take, whether they should be optional, and how many materials to assign per course.

Those choices are captured annually in the “Faculty Watch” survey, conducted by the research arm of the National Association of College Stores. The latest version of the survey provides data on nearly 1,700 faculty members at 19 two- and four-year colleges during the fall of 2021, which kicked off an academic year that was generally conducted in person more than had been the case in the previous year.

An interesting top-line finding from the data was faculty members’ continued allegiance to traditional print materials. In 2021, about two-thirds of faculty members used print materials. Although that’s down from 77 percent in 2020, print is still the most widely used format by faculty.

The share of faculty members who used e-books, however, went back down to pre-pandemic levels. A little more than half of faculty respondents turned to digital course materials in 2021. The year before, in 2020, the share of faculty using e-books was up, but that appears to be a “temporary spike while courses were held online,” the report said, and going forward, growth in that format should be “less dramatic.”

While about one in three faculty members in 2021 said they would be interested in — or were already a part of — a textbook-affordability initiative on their campus, they were split on whether affordable textbooks were a priority to them.

For more highlights from the survey, see below:

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