ACU iPad vs. iPhone research finds Statistics students' use-patterns differ due to form factor

Last semester, ACU and GetYa Learn On, an Austin-based educational software company, investigated how college students use the iPhone/iPod Touch compared to the iPad in an educational setting.

The research followed students in an Introductory Statistics class at ACU as they used the app "Statistics 1," an e-textbook that has been tested for three semesters at ACU. Students have consistently reported that the app helps them learn statistics and save time.

Students used the app on both iPhones/iPod Touches and iPads. Preliminary findings showed that 60 percent of students reported that for studying and test preparation, they preferred the iPad version because of the larger screen size; however, students reported that having the iPhone/iPod Touch version was equally important because the device is always with them

"The Statistics 1 app was useful on both devices, but I bring my phone with me everywhere I go, so it was a lot more practical to use the app on my iPhone," said one student. Another student relayed that, although the size of the iPad allowed for easier navigation, the iPhone app was far more useful "because it was more accessible and always with me."

In a questionnaire given to the class at the end of the semester, 86 percent of students involved in the study reported that using the "Statistics 1" e-textbook app helped them study statistics. The specific parts of the app that were reported to be most helpful included the examples in the lessons, quizzes with feedback, flashcards, glossary, and the Standard Deviation calculator.

"We're witnessing an educational revolution, one defined by students harnessing the power of smartphones and mobile devices to drive their own learning," stated Priya Nihalani, M.A., GYLO's Chief Research Officer. "Our findings confirm our hypotheses that use-patterns differ based on the form factor of the device."

ACU and GYLO have collaborated since 2009 to explore factors that affect learning with the iPhone and iPad in the context of higher education. Nihalani and GYLO's CEO, Dr. Michael Mayrath, will be presenting on the future of e-textbooks and mobile classroom applications at ACU's Connected Summit in late February.

The "Statistics 1" e-textbook app will be on sale for a limited time starting Tuesday, January 25 on the iTunes Store. The app will soon be available for Android devices.


Note:  Students enrolled in a entry-level statistics course used the Statistics 1 app from GYLO on both the iPad (for 4 weeks) and their iPhone or iPod touch (for the full semester) and were asked to compare their experience on the two devices. In terms of comparing the components of the Statistics app across devices; students mainly preferred use of the iPad over iPhone/iPod touch for reading lessons (85%), taking practice quizzes (85%), using simulation & tools (82%), and reviewing formulas (74%), with less pronounced preferences for flashcard (55%) and glossary (62%) use. When asked to directly compare using the devices for 12 kinds of everyday use, more than 2/3rds of students preferred using the iPad use for almost all activities questioned (i.e. enjoyment reading, reading class assignments, on-line newspaper reading, studying for class, checking email, watching video, etc.) with only listening to music (55%) and playing games (63%) showing smaller iPad preferences.   All students were provided with wifi-only iPads, thus limiting communication and social networking uses to settings where a network was available.

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