Digital Textbook

Digital Textbook

Elena Railean (Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, Romania)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch220

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Digital textbook theory and practice is an important area in the field of technology today, as it relates to all educators as well as those seeking to further their knowledge as a student or for personal interests and advancement. However, the idea to replace printed textbooks with digital versions comes from the late 1960th. In time many textbooks, including school textbooks, were digitalized during the Gutenberg project (1971-2008) “with the goal of making literary works belonging to the public domain available for free, and electronically” (Lebert, 2008, p. 2).

The history of digital textbooks goes hand in hand with educational, writing, reading, reordering, storage and disseminating technologies. During the first thirty-five years, digital textbooks were developed mainly as “a static electronic copy of a regular textbook: chapter by chapter, page by page, and picture by picture” (Brusilovsky, Schwarz, & Weber, 1997). In addition, different models of programed textbooks, hypermedia textbooks, multimedia textbooks, interactive textbooks etc. were exercised. Now learning is taking away from a fixed point and can be self-regulated through Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). A complex array of possibilities was opened up by the convergence of wireless infrastructure, new mobile technologies and post-modernism philosophy of learning.

A digital textbook is a textbook that can be read, heard or explored with digital devices. Most the digital textbooks are placed on learning platforms or on cloud systems and are accessed through computer(s) and digital devices. The personal library with digital textbooks may be taken anytime and anywhere. All textbooks can be digitized, but not all are programed. Compared with printed textbooks, digital textbooks have features, which allow to take notes, highlight words, search topics etc. In addition, the content is multimodal or programmed. This allows an increasing usability and affordability as well as the achievement of educational objectives. Didactic activities are based on information/communication, cognitive or assessment processes.

This article provides a framework for clarifying digital textbook initiatives using metasystem methodology and is related to all users of online technologies, because digital textbooks have the potential to engage all students in learning. The general aim of this paper is to describe the results of the meta-analysis of digital textbook confusing terminology, as well as structures and features. The central question concerns the optimal interdependencies between domains that study learning outcomes triggered by digital textbooks. The objectives of the article are:

  • To describe the terminology and diversity of digital textbooks;

  • To identify the main elements of digital textbook structure;

  • To evaluate digital textbook features from the learner-centered perspective.



Digital textbooks are widely used in P-12, universities and in lifelong education around the world. However, the concept of digital textbook is defined in various ways, which interact with each other. According to the most recent definitions, a digital textbook is:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Multimedia Learning: Learning that occurs when students build mental representations from words and pictures that are presented to them (e.g., printed text and illustrations or narration and animation). Multimedia messages include words, graphics and animation. The principles of multimedia learning are focused on maximalisation: a) text-and-illustrations and narration-and-animation efect (students learn more deeply from a multimedia explanation presented in words and pictures than in words alone); b) the coherence effect with text-and-illustration and narration-and-annimation (students learn more deeply from a multimedia explanation when extraneous material is excluded rather than included); c) the spatial contiguity effect with text-and-illustration and narration-and-animation (students learn more deeply from multimedia explanations when corresponding words and pictures are presented near to rather than far from earch other on the page or screen); and d) the personalisation effect with animation-and-naration and animation-and-text (students learn more deeply from a multimedia presentation when the words are presented in conversational style rather than formal style).

Hypermedia Textbooks: Textbooks in which content is made from many different texts, including audio, video, and hyperlinks. The text is a combination of words written by the author, quotations, perhaps commentary etc.

Educational Platform: A widely-used term, used to define an integrity of tools and services for writing, storing, disseminating digital communication, manage students activities, searching information etc.

Virtual Learning Environment: A eLearning, mLearning or Cloud System that provides access to classe schedules, digital textbook content, quizzes, homework, grades, assessment, and other external pedagogical resources and/or a social space where students and teachers can communicate through interactive discussions, forums of discussion, chat and other technologies.

Programmed Textbooks: A textbook, which in addition to instructional material provides schemas of learning including reading/listening and control of knowledge assimilation. The principles of programmed textbooks are: clear learning objectives, small steps, logical sequence, active responding, immediate feedback; drill and practice and stimulus fading.

Learning Platform: A term used to define a range of tools and services that allow access, development and management of digital textbooks, digital courses, virtual lessons, class content, grades, assessment, personal online learning space etc.

Multimedia Textbook: Educational software that presents the learning content through multimodal text, i.e. as a combination of text, hypertext, sound, pictures, graphics, videos and animations.

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