By: Geena Sandhu
Assigned readings are an essential component of university life. Having said that, students should be given the option of purchasing their hefty 400-page McMaster University courseware as a digital copy with an included audio component.
Finding the time to sit down and read five assigned readings in one week is undeniably strenuous. As students, we prioritize completing assignments, papers and tests to the point where readings often become neglected.
This is where the solution of audiobooks comes in. Oftentimes, they are formatted so that one may listen to the text while simultaneously reading it.
We hear about leisure reading audiobooks, however, academia has also developed audiobooks. Many professors at McMaster have made their textbooks accessible online with a convergence feature, that is, the text being read aloud to the listener.
However, the long lines at the campus stores at the beginning of each semester indicate that many professors still prefer old school physical textbooks. Before pushing for more audio textbooks, is listening to a textbook as beneficial for students as reading it?
As a first-year student, when my professor announced the textbook could be accessed physically from the bookstore or online, I was hesitant towards the idea of an audio textbook because it was not something I was familiar with.
Even though the idea did not appeal to me, this semester I was obliged to try audio textbooks as one of my textbooks was only accessible through an online app.
Since then, the process of accessing my audio textbook at any time of the day through my iPhone rather than carrying a copy in my backpack has become exceedingly convenient.
One of the critical differences between reading and listening is that audiobooks are great for multitasking — on the condition that one of the tasks being performed is a menial job that does not hinder one’s mental capacity.
Since audiobooks are easily accessible, the text can be listened to while commuting to school, between classes, running errands, cleaning your room and in innumerable other instances. This is a great way to occupy extra time through doing something productive.
Additionally, scholarly textbooks can include words that may be too technical or advanced for students that are learning a concept for the first time. This may interfere in the process of the student comprehending the message. Consequently, students may become unmotivated to continue reading the required texts.
However, when an audiobook is used, it allows readers to effortlessly decode the message as well as learn the pronunciation of unfamiliar words as the narrator speaks.
McMaster is also a very diverse school where English is not everyone’s first language. The use of an audio textbook would be especially useful for English-language learners as audiobooks not only improve vocabulary and comprehension, but they also increase students’ ability to communicate with others.
Overall, the university should encourage instructors to offer audio textbook options as they benefit a wide range of students. Through audio, students will have an extra one to two hours for other productive activity, and also have a better time understanding the syntax behind a language.
My recommendation for students would be to set the pace of the narrator's voice to a speed that feels comfortable and compatible to your own. Students should also read and listen concurrently so that during a test, the words may appear familiar.