Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ebooks for education

Dr McComas Taylor, talked to the ACS e-Learning Special Interest Group last night at the Australian National University on role and nature of the "textbook" in the technology age. McComas described how he created a free open access multimedia electronic textbook: "The Joy of Sanskrit: A first-year syllabus for tertiary students".

The book is the first e-textbook available free for download from the ANU Press. The Joy of Sanskrit is available for iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, open The Joy of Sanskrit by McComas Taylor and Grazia Scotellaro was published in 2014 and is available in a version for Apple computers, iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, plus a separate version for  Microsoft Windows computers. 

Dr Taylor expressed frustration at the need for separate versions of the ebook for Apple and Microsoft computers and hoped that this could be overcome in the future. One of the audience members suggested use of HTML 5 could overcome these problems and make for a more interactive electronic book, with products such as Educanon. The EPUB 3 standard also offer more interactivity.

Dr. Taylor also talked of the frustrations with the process of producing ePub format e-books, where the rendering of the format took a long time even after small corrections to the content. He commented there were good tools for Apple format e-books but not for multiple platform development. 

For reading ePub ebooks, Android tablets, the App epubreader can be used, for Macs,  Bookreader Lite and  Windows, Azardi. I found that Calibre worked well for reading an epub ebook in the Linux operating system (although it is intended for creating ebooks).

Dr Taylor compared the use of  an "off-line" ebook for education, with  an on-line learning management system (LMS), such as the  Moodle system used by ANU (branded "Wattle" at ANU). He pointed out the ebook had the advantage that it needed to only be downloaded once at the start of a course, whereas the student needed a continual Internet connection to use the LMS. The disadvantage was that the ebook could not be as easily updated. The two could be used together with the ebook providing content and the LMS used for interactive exercises and for students to submit work. But Dr Taylor looked forward to advances in the technology which would allow interactive "formative" exercises in the ebook, with the LMS used for "summative" assessment.

Dr Taylor demonstrated an application on an Apple iPhone which allowed the language student to listen to a sample of speech, record their own and the play it back for comparison. He contrasted this with  the Wimba Voice Tools module for Moodle, which while function, was more cumbersome to use.

ps: Another epub ebook used at ANU is my own "ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future", used for the course Comp7310. But unlike Dr Taylor's ebook, this has no multimedia, just text.

1 comment:

  1. Basically e-Books are majorly used in the Universities and student are happy to have a book in soft copy related to there specific topic or Subject, but most of the time you have to keep a hard form of you book.