Project Launch: Reading On Screen

By Matt Cornock

In direct response to student feedback on the way that we are making extensive use of digital resources for teaching, we have developed a special guide and supporting website addressing ‘reading on screen’.

The site covers such topics as:

  • Annotation
  • Device-specific benefits/drawbacks
  • Visual aids to support reading from a screen
  • Text adjustments for websites and PDFs
  • Alternative formats such as text-to-speech
  • Note-taking (in development)

The site has been developed by me (@mattcornock) in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York, in collaboration with Blayn Parkinson (@blaynparkinson) of the Elearning Development Team, University of York.

Screenshot of the Reading On Screen support site


It became clear from discussions with students that the techniques and approaches to paper-based study were entrenched in their work practices. However, with the proliferation of digital content in the form of ebooks, PDF book chapters, journal articles, word documents and PowerPoint slides, students actually spend much more time engaging with screens rather than printed pages. Our view is that the techniques for consuming large quantities of text material on screen are not taught to students and so they are missing out on the tricks to make it easier, often leading to dissatisfaction, even though teaching staff are providing more easily accessible and a wider range of materials.

Some of the benefits of a ‘paper-less’ environment include searchable text, annotations, font adjustment and simply having to only carry a tablet instead of stacks of books! Learning how to approach digital resources and methods for engaging with them do require a) knowing functionality exists, and b) practice. This site aims to encourage that.

Not re-inventing the wheel

The site provides a ‘one-stop shop’ to many of the common questions specifically about reading on screen and engaging with materials digitally. We have, where possible, linked out to existing resources instead of re-writing reams of guides, for example YouTube videos and software specific help pages feature prominently. We have also tried to be as specific as possible about our recommendations, making it easy for students to follow rather than leaving them guessing and trying out approaches that may be in vain. Where we have little experience or have not considered a device, we encourage site users through comments to send their recommendations or requests.

Feedback is essential and we will be reviewing how people are using the site, particularly through the online form and page comments.

Following this project

The site has its own blog where we’ll post updates as resources develop:

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