Today’s students are accustomed to a world where information is available on-demand, anywhere and anytime. They bring this expectation to their academic world where they want to work cooperatively and flexibly, using the modern information processing tools and access with which they are familiar. New hardware platforms such as e-Readers and tablet computers have made substantial inroads in the consumer market. E-Readers are becoming more prevalent in universities – replacing the need for physical textbooks, lecturing notes and other academic documents. Many universities are now running pilot programs, while some are already using e-Readers. Tablet computers, apart from their ability to read, edit or create various types of information documents, also offer additional features such as collaborative and social networking services. This empirical research project investigated student perspectives on the educational use of e-Readers and tablets within the University of Cape Town. A questionnaire was distributed to a significant portion of the student population and stratified according to seniority and faculty. Quantitative data was gathered and analysed on themes ranging from awareness to preferences to facilitating conditions around e-Readers within the academic environment. The students sent a clear signal: that they are keen to embrace these new technologies and the advantages they offer. E-Books can be updated automatically and downloaded to e-Readers instantly from almost anywhere in the world. Students feel they would benefit greatly through the use of e-Readers and many believe they are set to replace books completely. Having access to a portable library of information in their backpacks would benefit both students and the environment. However, there are a number of barriers to the comprehensive introduction of these technologies, including the cost of the devices; cost, rights and file format of e-books; the need for a critical mass of textbooks available in digital format and device characteristics such as battery life, and ubiquitous Wi-Fi access.
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DOI 10.4018/ijcee.2012070102
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