Training Reading Comprehension on Computer Screens: A Review of Research and Implications for Education

Training Reading Comprehension on Computer Screens: A Review of Research and Implications for Education

Training Reading Comprehension On Computer Screens

Listen to the research report


The shift from printed to digital text formats has significant implications for society. One implication is that it has made information more accessible and widely available. This has democratised access to knowledge and has the potential to improve literacy rates and educational outcomes. However, this requires training reading comprehension on screen, not printed paper.

This shift from printed text to digital text formats also has had a profound impact on how we consume and interact with information. While digital devices offer convenience and access to a vast array of resources, they also raise concerns about the potential impact on reading comprehension. This research report examines the existing literature on training reading comprehension on computer screens, exploring both the advantages and limitations of digital reading environments.

Research report by LarsGoran Bostrom, Learning Design Consultant and developer of SOE PublishingLab

Literature Review

A Review Of Research And Implications For EducationA number of studies have investigated the effects of reading comprehension on computer screens versus paper. One meta-analysis, conducted by Walczyk, Kelly, Meche, and Braud (1999), found that reading comprehension was generally lower on computer screens compared to paper. Similarly, Wästlund, Holmqvist, and Nilsson (2005) reported that participants were more likely to make mistakes while reading lengthy texts on a computer screen.

However, the prevalence of digital reading also raises concerns about potential negative effects on reading comprehension and attention span. Research suggests that digital reading may lead to shallower processing of information and increased distractibility (Carr, 2010).

However, not all studies have found such consistent differences. For instance, a study by Halamish and Elbaz (2019) found that fifth-graders performed better on a reading comprehension test when they had read from a computer screen rather than paper. This suggests that the effects of screen reading on comprehension may vary depending on factors such as age, prior reading experience, and the specific characteristics of the reading material.

Other studies have found that reading comprehension is comparable on paper and screens (Mayer, 2011; Golan et al., 2018). These studies suggest that the specific features of the reading task, such as the type of text being read and the presence of distractions, as explained above, may be more important than the medium itself.

Despite these mixed findings, several studies have identified potential factors that may contribute to the decline in reading comprehension on computer screens. One concern is the physical characteristics of computer screens may make it more difficult to track text and maintain a consistent reading pace. 

However, for challenges like these, some researchers and politicians come to the conclusion that pupils should train their reading comprehension on printed paper. Mainly because of the obstacles to reading on the screen that has been mentioned above. But this is an extremely inward looking conclusion. Since the main purpose with school is to prepare the pupils for a working life and the society as a whole. This digital society where printed text is decreasing rapidly in general that also helps to develop a more sustainable future.    

Strategies for Effective Digital Reading Comprehension

Despite the potential challenges, there are strategies that can be employed to improve reading comprehension on computer screens. These include:

  • Adjusting font size and line spacing: This can make it easier to read long passages of text.
  • Using highlighting and note-taking tools: These can help readers identify important points and retain information.
  • Turning off unnecessary notifications: This can reduce distractions and improve focus.
  • Taking regular breaks: This can help to prevent eye strain and maintain concentration. This could include text layout structured in smaller sections.

The Evolution of Reading in the Digital Age

The shift to digital reading has not only impacted individual reading habits but also transformed the way society interacts with information. Digital platforms have democratised access to knowledge, enabling individuals to access and share information at an unprecedented scale. However, this shift has also raised concerns about the quality of information and the potential for misinformation to spread.

To address these concerns, educators and librarians play a crucial role in equipping students with the skills and knowledge to navigate the digital landscape effectively. This includes teaching critical thinking skills, evaluating the credibility of sources, and using digital tools responsibly.


The transition from printed text to digital formats has fundamentally altered the way we read and consume information. While digital technologies offer convenience and access to vast amounts of knowledge, they also pose challenges to reading comprehension and information literacy. By understanding the potential benefits and limitations of digital reading, educators can develop effective strategies to enhance reading comprehension and critical thinking skills in the digital age.


Carr, N. (2010). The shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. W. W. Norton & Company

Halamish, N., & Elbaz, H. (2019). Reading comprehension on paper versus screen for fifth-grade students. Reading Psychology, 40(2), 107-122.

Walczyk, J. J., Kelly, D. R., Meche, C., & Braud, L. G. (1999). The effects of text presentation mode on reading comprehension and recall. Educational Psychology Review, 11(3), 245-270.

Wästlund, E., Holmqvist, K., & Nilsson, L.-G. (2005). Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension and visual fatigue. Ergonomics, 48(1), 44-56.

Golan, O., Barzilai, S., & Azgad, R. (2018). Reading on paper versus screen: The role of reading orientation and metacognitive awareness. Journal of Educational Psychology, 110(2), 269-282.

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