Print, Digital, or Both
Monday, December 16, 2019
Posted by: Jane Wright, Ohio State University Extension
Print, Digital, or Both
Jane Wright, 4-H Curriculum Manager, Ohio State University Extension Publishing
Every spring, Ohio 4-H asks its members and volunteers, “Print or digital?”
"Reading" by Sam & Sophie Images is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Ohio 4-H produces nearly 150 project books—printed by the thousands, stored in a warehouse, and shipped to counties across the state. County offices keep their own inventories, and eventually the books are distributed to clubs and used by 4-H members to record and share what they learn. Is it worth it? Is there a better way? What about all those trees?
Most importantly, is this the best way to meet the needs of 4-H members and their families?
What Our Stakeholders Say
For the last six years, Ohio 4-H has conducted an annual survey of members and volunteers about preferences for delivery of project book content. It initially targeted Ohio 4-H Conference attendees. For the past two years the survey has been made generally available for use in counties. With a short series of questions, we ask which of these delivery channels our members and volunteers prefer—our current system of print project books, digital delivery, or both. In 2018 we added a question about which specific method of digital delivery is preferred.
No doubt about it, although more members and project helpers have their own mobile devices, more also say they prefer print project books. A majority also report being “unlikely” to use PDF, e-book, online course, and mobile app formats. You can see our results in detail here: Print Vs Digital 2019.
Print Has Unique Attributes
Research on how children learn is fascinating. Reading a printed page—even the act of turning a printed page—and writing out answers activate areas the brain that typing and swiping on a screen do not. Print also makes it easier to keep track of where in the material certain text appears; a reader knows where they are, and it is easy to see text in relation to the text around it, giving it a certain, memorable context.
Digital Means a Lot of Things, and Few of Them Are Free
Digital delivery ranges from simple PDFs to mobile apps and everything in between. Even though digital saves the cost of paper and warehousing, most other production costs remain—editorial, design, delivery via an online store, etc. And, with so much free information on the internet, customers expect to pay less, if at all, than they would for print. On the plus side, digital delivery may better prepare youth for the workplace, where adoption of digital solutions for almost every aspect of the work environment are proving to be economical for businesses.
For now, Ohio 4-H is staying with print project books but complementing them as appropriate and as much as possible with online content like videos and easy-to-print extra pages. Here are some examples:
Not Just Knots
Poultry Breed Videos
Our PRINT publications are available at extensionpubs.osu.edu.