The digital textbook as connected content, part 2

In the second of his two-part post, Talis’ Justin Leavesley talks about the contextual issues surrounding connected content and Project Lighthouse.

lighthouse 2

It is far too early to be drawing firm conclusions for what textbooks as connected content might mean. However, we think some of the important areas for connections are:

The course context

The textbook should be connected to the course context. It should know which course or module it is being used on. It should know who the enrolled students are and who is teaching the course. It should allow the cohort of students and the teachers to easily discuss and collaborate with each other around fragments of content online; perhaps highlighting a section of a diagram or section of text that is problematic or particularly important and directly attaching additional guidance or links to more resources relevant to that section.

The textbook should be recording real time engagement analytics  as each student, and the teaching academic, interact with both the content and discussions.

The teaching context

The textbook should allow someone teaching to understand exactly how the cohort as a whole and students individually are actually engaging with the content of the textbook and discussions it is generating. This should be easy to use for immediate teaching intervention or supporting flipped classroom or distance courses. It should also be designed to inform course design and review after teaching has finished by allowing a retrospective of how and when students actually engaged with which parts of a textbook.

The subject context

Textbooks are perhaps the most reused teaching resources across universities or other teaching institutions. The textbook should allow those teaching with it to connect with each other, if they wish, across institutions and potentially connect with the authors. The connected textbook should be able to inform a teacher about how widely used the resource is, if teachers are switching to other resources, or simply if new editions or corrections are available.

The learner context

The textbook should know exactly how it has been used by a student and easily allow the student to save study notes, or discussions to their personal study journal. It should allow students to discuss and collaborate with their study mates or the whole class.

It should be able to inform students about how their engagement with the textbook compares to the overall class or notify them of new teaching guidance added to the text. It should be able to suggest parts of the textbook that the class has been engaging with heavily – that they themselves have not.

The acquisition context

A connected textbook should make actual student engagement information easily available course by course as part of acquisition decision making.

These are just some of the possibilities that thinking of textbooks as connected content make possible. Only time will tell what combination of technology and economic change will shape the future of the textbook and make a transformative difference. But it seems a safe bet that it will involve becoming more connected than ever before.

Justin Leavesley, Talis

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