Computer- vs. paper-based tasks: Are they equivalent?

Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, 12A Priory Road, Bristol, UK.
Ergonomics (Impact Factor: 1.56). 10/2008; 51(9):1352-75. DOI: 10.1080/00140130802170387
Source: PubMed


In 1992, Dillon published his critical review of the empirical literature on reading from paper vs. screen. However, the debate concerning the equivalence of computer- and paper-based tasks continues, especially with the growing interest in online assessment. The current paper reviews the literature over the last 15 years and contrasts the results of these more recent studies with Dillon's findings. It is concluded that total equivalence is not possible to achieve, although developments in computer technology, more sophisticated comparative measures and more positive user attitudes have resulted in a continuing move towards achieving this goal. Many paper-based tasks used for assessment or evaluation have been transferred directly onto computers with little regard for any implications. This paper considers equivalence issues between the media by reviewing performance measures. While equivalence seems impossible, the importance of any differences appears specific to the task and required outcomes.

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