We investigate how elements of course structure (i.e., the frequency of assessments as well as the sequencing and weight of course resources) influence the usage patterns of electronic textbooks (e-texts) in introductory physics courses. Specifically, we analyze the access logs of courses at Michigan State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, each of which deploy e-texts as primary or secondary texts in combination with different formative assessments (e.g., embedded reading questions) and different summative assessment (exam) schedules. As such studies are frequently marred by arguments over what constitutes a “meaningful” interaction with a particular page (usually judged by how long the page remains on the screen), we consider a set of different definitions of “meaningful” interactions. We find that course structure has a strong influence on how much of the e-texts students actually read, and when they do so. In particular, courses that deviate strongly from traditional structures, most notably by more frequent exams, show consistently high usage of the materials with far less “cramming” before exams.

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