Many studies support the need for printing capabilities even though remote learning is mostly centered online--here's what a new survey reveals about home printers.

Why print is still essential for remote learning


Many studies support the need for printing capabilities even though remote learning is mostly centered online--here's what a new survey reveals

The year 2020 will go down in history books as one unlike any other. COVID-19 dominated the headlines and caused unprecedented disruption to society. The rapidly spreading global pandemic caused suffering around the world and led to nations, regions, and individual communities to enact economic and social shutdowns and confine people to their homes. This required school-aged children to participate in various forms of remote learning.

In light of so many changes and new options regarding education this year, the Mopria Alliance recently conducted a survey to find out how important print and scan capabilities are for those who are engaged in remote learning vs. those attending traditional in-person school.

The answers were illuminating, particularly because many of the learning initiatives for remote learning scenarios center on online curriculum where the student is focused on what’s happening on a computer screen, tablet, or smartphone.

Several academic studies validate that printing homework vs. doing it on a screen can be more beneficial for kids. According to a recent article in BrainFacts.org, print is visually less demanding than digital text. It provides spatial and tactile cues to help readers process words on a page. Mindset may also be a factor. If people associate screen time with casual web-surfing they may rush through without fully absorbing the text.

One of the primary questions posed with the survey sought to discover whether hard copy print-outs are an important element of remote learning. The survey looked at whether students have access to printers at home. As it turns out, more than 75 percent of students have a printer at home. The devices they print from are generally Chromebooks and tablets for younger students (K-8) and more robust Apple computers/laptops for older students (high school and up), who generally require more computing power.

This large percentage of those who had printers in the home became even more important when respondents were asked about the importance of having a printer in the home and its usefulness. About 50 percent (including parents and students) said the student would have a “hard time” without a printer in the home.

When asked how frequently they print for school, most said at least monthly, if not daily or weekly. Interestingly, this is a much higher incidence of printing than for office workers. So then, respondents were asked about why they print. For older students (high school and up), the undisputed top answer was to turn in or complete an assignment, homework, or worksheet.

Now, when they were asked why they print when they are not required to, three of the top four reasons are to help students learn, comprehend, and focus better. In other words, when students aren’t required to print for an assignment, they frequently do anyway to help them understand the information in a way that only print provides.

What these students intuitively felt has been substantiated by numerous studies. A recent review and meta‐analysis consolidated the research findings on reading performance, reading times and calibration of performance (metacognition) between reading text from paper vs reading text on screens. The findings uncovered that 29 of the 33 laboratory studies reviewed showed that readers learned more from text on paper.

The survey conducted by the Mopria Alliance was enlightening in a number of ways. It illuminated how, why and how often students print from home. But the most important answer in the entire survey uncovered how students actually feel about print—even in an increasingly digital, screen-filled world. More than 75 percent of respondents said that printing is an essential learning tool.

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