University of Arizona Researchers Report on Readability for College Students


A 3-year project investigates the impact of better reading formats for college students. Funded by a University of Arizona CUES grant, the research is intended to catalyze innovative teaching and learning.

Personalized reading formats allow students to customize their reading experience by changing the font, size, and spacing of text. The adoption of better reading formats can help students better understand and retain information.

University of Arizona Readability Research Project - research questions

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Dr. Shelley Rodrigo and the team shared initial results from the “Improving Student Agency and Digital Reading for Better Learning and Academic Success” project. The panel included students Bethany Brooks Harrison and Anuj Gupta of the University of Arizona and Rick Treitman of Adobe.

Over the next two years, the team will continue to work with students to understand their preferences for and adoption of personalized reading formats. They will help the students develop strategies for using better readability formats to improve their reading speed, accuracy and comprehension, and accelerate learning.

“I think the factor that surprised me the most was how much of a difference spacing made on improving my experience while reading digitally.” – U of A Student

Watch the full presentation to hear more about the team’s initial findings. They present both quantitative and qualitative results.


Research Project Description

Improving Student Agency and Digital Reading for Better Learning and Academic Success

To better navigate the increasingly large amount of digitally published texts and to feel empowered as learners, students would benefit from understanding and using personalized reading formats (PRF) which enable changes to font, size, and spacing, for example.

This project proposes studying how students experience adopting and implementing PRFs within digital textbook environments. This goal addresses a high need on our campus and beyond. Indeed, according to the UArizona Bookstore, nearly half of undergraduate courses adopt digital textbooks through the bookstore’s inclusive access process, as of Spring 2022.

By focusing exclusively on the reading environment within digital textbooks, this research advances our understanding of the process of learning technology adoption and adaptation, while immediately enhancing the student reading and learning experience in digital environments.


The Panel

Shelley Rodrigo, CUES Distinguished Fellow, Senior Director, Writing Program Graduate Faculty, Rhetoric, Composition, & the Teaching of English, Associate Writing Specialist, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences

Bethany Brooks Harrison, Undergraduate Researcher, Department of English College of Social & Behavioral Sciences

Anuj Gupta, Ph.D. Student, Rhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English College of Social & Behavioral Sciences

Rick Treitman, Entrepreneur-in-Residence and readability expert, Adobe (

Readability Community News: Rodrigo Named CUES Fellow