Learning new habits… reading online

I love books. I love the feel of a new book in my hands, I love the tactile experience of flicking through the pages to get a sense of the information or story to come. In the secret moments of hope during my PhD application phase, I imagined a montage of me merrily typing away at my thesis, surrounded by mugs of tea and hundreds of well-thumbed reference books.

I’m currently reading Utilizing Learning Analytics to Support Study Success. Published in 2019, this book is full of relevant information and links for my literature review. But Amazon lists the hardback copy at £46.83. The only other option is a Kindle version which, bizarrely, is even more expensive.

So filling my home office with beautiful reference books is suddenly a very expensive idea, not achievable for this self-funded student.

My second reality check is that I have to be mobile. I work between my home office and my newly discovered university desk. I have inductions and training and seminars in a variety of buildings, let alone rooms. My phone, notebook and laptop are all I can – or want to – carry.

And technically, they are all I need.

I found Utilizing Learning Analytics to Support Study Success through the OU library. It linked me to ProQuest eBook CentralTM , where apparently I now have an account. That account is mobile – I can access it online, anywhere I have a device and an internet connection. I can annotate it with highlighting and sticky notes, and have them appear whenever and wherever I log in.

It’s bloody brilliant.

And part of me hates it.

Reading online is not the same. Highlighting online, writing notes and thoughts online is not the same. Scrolling through pages to get a feel for the book as a whole is certainly not the same. I want to curl up in a comfy chair and feel connected to the text.

But it’s something I’m going to have to get used to. The benefits are too great – the mobility, the access levels, the breadth of material available. The environmental benefits of not printing and shipping piles of large books alone are enough to convince my head, if not my librarian’s daughter heart.

My iPad has helped. I have an Apple Pencil, which means I can hand-write my notes, even if they are automatically changed to typed text immediately. I can curl up on the sofa with it, although it is certainly less tactile. The dog still sleeps on my feet.

So this is the habit I’m having to change. No piles of texts for me, but (hopefully) well organised website links to online books, journals, and articles, along with online tools like Mendeley, Trello, OneNote and Dropbox. My thesis will be written with multi screen referencing.

And it will still get done.

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Published by sarahjalcock

PhD researcher at the Open University with a focus on Learning Analytics and Learning Design. Follow me on Twitter @SarahAlcock19. Author text is licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA

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