Student populations can change over time, as the educational landscape continues to shift online and to off-line options.
What Student Populations Might Have The Most Difficulty With Online Learning
Getting ahead in a knowledge-intensive field like journalism or literary criticism is like beating the odds on Kentucky Derby day. It’s not like there’s a big pool of bettors who spend years following horses just to come up with a long shot (compared to, say, players who pick a winner for their fantasy baseball teams). And even when punters successfully use and luck into a long shot, they rarely back it up. So when the names of better-educated people pop up on a list of the best readers of both traditional and online books, the odds are that the reading habits of those higher in educational attainment tend to be different than those of lower-skilled people.
That is, those with higher degrees tend to gravitate to the usual suspects — books about high finance, for example, or about physics, which is common to many graduate programs in higher education — but that also happens to be where they spend more time.
That line of reasoning suggests that reading books is part of the University’s mission to provide knowledge in these domains, and that literate students — especially the higher-education-educated kind — are most likely to take advantage of the chance to hone those skills.
So a recent study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior looked at the average college students’ reading habits and found them to be strikingly similar across demographics. But in case it wasn’t clear before, there are differences between different types of higher education, particularly higher education along four lines: undergraduate-level degrees (such as the bachelor’s degree), graduate-level degrees (such as doctorates) and master’s degrees (such as MPH or MSc), and doctoral-level degrees.
Colleges that specialize in one of these subject areas may have, for example, different types of books for students with undergrad-level degrees, or probably not the same amount, perhaps, of books that go further or deeper than comparable ones for graduate-level students. Those differences may be how the institutions see their role in college — what they offer, more or less — but because of the different nature of the degrees and their class distinctions that gap is likely to be wider at undergraduate and graduate levels.
But is there any other gap in the literature choices that students make? It seems so.
A second study published in the journal Cognition analyzed the top 1 percent of texts on the Open Books List, which is broken down by subject, as described in the Open Books site:
This list is composed of 10,000,000 books that have been catalogued on OpenBooks.com, and it is made up of texts that have significant and trending content on the site. Highbrow and mainstream magazines, newspapers, and books published every week are deleted at the start of the year, making for a longer list and corresponding different composition. To separate these from the public, classes or other information required to read a particular book, only the public book index is included. This further implies that most people read books anonymously. This is a serious methodological problem. The authors of the above experiments used a class of large samples for their observation. They do not constitute an analysis of the larger sample.
Of all the 15 experimental groups, all but two chose information that is commonly read anonymously. Here is the list:
To be fair, these are the results from a small group of readers, and the sample is obviously noisy. But it’s surprising that this large group of users of Open Books took such aimless readings, especially the women. It also seems to be that, unlike the above essay, the essays selected by the women were by women. Why?
While it’s not clear, the authors of the novel write that the difference in women’s choices suggests that the choice of literature was prompted by assumptions about gender and a preference for more highbrow works. “While individuals do change their reading habits in response to categorization, these data make it clear that and that gender stereotypes shift in the context of the internet,” they write. “In her review, Ms. Stagg points out that Western literature is vast. It is not so much the page count as the cache of citation that counts. Out of respect for the exhaustive work done over a long time by scholars and independent translators, it is no surprise that literary elites purchase a bundle of literary artifacts when they go to write a novel.”
Researchers with Open Books note that there is little proof that online literature is indeed like the electronic word, which gets typed onto the document so that anyone can read it. One possibility is that different readers choose different books and don’t all consume them at the same time. It’s even more likely that individual readers choose what is on their own time and apply their skills in different ways — both good and