What research questions the project addresses, aims & themes
"eBooks and Mobiles" is a sub-project (Deliverable 5 - User Case Studies) of the larger University strategic project "Building Mobile Learning Capacity". The aim of the 18 month sub-project is to evaluate the use of eBooks and iPads in individual and group learning situations specifically with a group of 12 Associate Lecturers and through them, to some extent, with students.
How the research questions are addressed by the project (methodology and activity/environment)
The Associate Lecturers are based in Region 13 (South East). In March 2011 they were given wifi iPads to experiment with as potential tools to support teaching and learning, with a particular focus on eBooks. In addition a closed forum was set up in the OU VLE for them to share their experiences of setting up and getting familiar with the devices and their experiments of using them for teaching. Each tutor was also given a personal blog on the OU VLE which was only viewable to themselves and the project leaders to help them document their experiences.
The Associate Lecturers report and discuss their activities through a wiki, a forum and posting their experiences and reflections on a personal blog. This workspace is a rich source of data for analysis. A detailed evaluation of their backgrounds, attitudes and uses of the iPad both as an eBook reader and as a tablet computer has been compiled. Additionally, the tutors are developing their own learning through the use of eBooks on a topic of their choice.
Findings and outputs
After 3 months, the Associate Lecturers gave their first impressions and experiences of using the iPad as an eBook reader via a short questionnaire. Portability and mobility of the device was the primary benefit, followed by the ability to share with small groups of other people, the aid to marking of assessments at co-ordination meetings, new ways of doing things such as taking notes, and the wifi internet connection.
More recently two tutors have been collaborating to devise group activities for their students which will involve using eBook resources, module materials, film clips and live forum postings on the iPads while walking about a town on a day school. Others have shown eBooks and apps during face to face tutorial sessions to their students. One tutor has used the Open University's 'Our Story' app in a tutorial. Some students were sceptical about eBooks, especially regarding the longevity and cost of electronic hardware and a concern about the ease of annotation, though once tutors had demonstrated what could be done, more students were keen to have an eBook reader, though in addition to physical text books. Some of the tutors are experimenting with creating bespoke eBooks for student activities.
The Associate Lecturers are collaborating to produce 10 video use case clips for wider distribution within the Open University and recommendations to faculties about integrating eBooks into the curriculum.
As well as seeking to discover the extent to which eBooks and tablet computers allow people to do things in alternative ways, the project is finding out how tutors can do activities differently, both for their own learning development and to devise new models of delivery to enhance the learning experience for their students.
This initiative is about developing our business thinking via new product and new market opportunities presented by emerging mobile learning and eBook platforms. The project will inform faculty's understanding of how eBooks and mobile learning can be used to enhance the student experience.
eBook chapter: Educational Use Cases from a Shared Exploration of E-books and iPads in
"E-Books, E-Readers, E-devices for E-Learning" (pub forthcoming)
Mobile learning, eBook, eReader
Dr Martin Smith - Project leader
Anna Page - Evaluation
Project partners and links
KMi Building Mobile Learning Capacity
Start Date and duration
Sept 2010 - July 2012