Printing VS Digital
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Printing VS Digital

Printing VS Digital

Printed educational material had existed long before digital learning was seen as a possibility. Over the years, the use of technology-driven devices has risen, and the development of technology saw us observing the impossible become possible. It is safe to say that there has been an enormous shift from using only printed educational material to using a combination of digital and printed material in many learning institutions and schools worldwide.

Fast-forward to 2020, and the most unexpected unpleasantries of COVID-19 saw us propelling into an era where many, if not most, educational institutions were forced to go digital. Although some would argue that this might be the best thing to have happened to us as we adapt more quickly to digital learning in a time where technology is all the rave. There are some realities to be addressed and faced here, and the question soon arises, is digital learning as effective as learning from printed material?

There is no denying that there are advantages and benefits to both digital and printed learning formats. In a research study done by Freeman and Saunders, (1) they found that many students preferred reading digital text because it made it easier to scan and find specific information within that text. The latter indicates that a significant advantage to digital learning lies in the convenience this has to offer. On the downside is some negative side-effects reported by students, which is induced by digital learning. These include visual issues, eye strain and headaches and students feeling that using electronic educational material made them more tired. (2,3,4) That being said, the main interest remains on how effective digital learning is when it comes to students ability to process, memorise and recall information.

In the research study done by the University of Boras in Sweden, it appeared that although students enjoyed the benefits of both electronic and printed learning material, they found more value in using printed learning material.

The overall consensus was that many students found that they were more easily distracted and couldn’t concentrate when using electronic learning material. This, in turn, meant they could not memorise and recall the information they had learned as effectively as possible when learning it in a digital format instead of print format. Additionally, because printed learning material is in a physical form, allowing more than one sense to be stimulated at once, it assists in supporting the learning process.

Furthermore, studies show that educational material printed in colour has a significant impact on learning. Colour is said to improve learning and understanding by 55 % – 78 %.(5) According to Myer “Colour draws on both symbolic and cognitive powers to affect learning, facilitating memorisation and concept identification. Colour also influences how we see and process information; it can improve our ability to remember both words and pictures.” (6) This indicates that using a combination of printed learning material and using colour in said material could greatly benefit scholars’ learning outcomes.

There is still the benefit that digital learning has on the financial front. Learning material can be downloaded for free, whereas books and printing come with costs. The big misconception is that all printed educational material has to come at a high price. Tinus Grobler, COO, and the man behind the full colour printing drive at InsideData had the following to say: “As the educational material printing specialists, we have found printing technologies and techniques that can see schools reap great benefits of full colour printed material at significantly lower costs. We use the latest ink jet printing technology, which can allow for large quantities of material being printed while customising it for specific learning outcomes or grades. Customers have even admitted to paying less for our colour printed material than they have on black-and-white printed material. We invest heavily in the latest equipment to offer beneficial learning material to educational institutions, because we believe in investing in future generations.” (7)

In conclusion, both printed and electronic learning material have their benefits, and the combination of these formats can be very effective in assisting scholars through their learning journeys. The emphasis, however, must be placed on the fact that tactile colour printed learning material has a substantial positive impact on learning as a whole.
To find out more about InsideData’s full colour printing solutions for educational material, visit:

Author: InsideData


1. Freeman, R.S. & Saunders, E.S. (2015). E-book reading practices in different subject areas: an exploratory log analysis. In Suzanne M. Ward, Robert S. Freeman & Judith M. Nixon (Eds.), Academic e-books: publishers, librarians and users, (pp. 223-248). Indiana: Purdue University Press.
2. Baron, N.S., Calixte, R.M. & Havewala, M. (2017). The persistence of print among university students: an exploratory study.
3. Bikowski, D. & Casal, J.E. (2018). Interactive digital textbooks and engagement: a learning strategies framework. Language Learning & Technology.
4. Farinosi, M., Lim, C & Roll, J. (2016). Book or screen, pen or keyboard? A cross-cultural sociological analysis of writing and reading habits basing on Germany, Italy and the UK.
5. Morton, J. (2019). [Online] Why Color Matters (Available from: Accessed on: 18 June 2021.
6. Myer Judy. (2004). The color of learning: enhance memory and retention with a splash of color.
7. Interview Tinus Grobler: Group Chief Operating Officer, InsideData Group.