Build optional digital textbooks for distance learners

Du Ruo, Yang Xiaotang


E-books seem to be a trend and an excellent solution for mobile learning lately, but what kinds of e-books are good fit for distance learners’ needs? For the purpose of offering open, more appropriate, better in quality, more convenient and flexible learning materials for distance learners. From 2011, through an experimental study on the basis of research on mobile learning ubiquitous learning and any-media, a research group at the Open University of China started to explore a new type of e-books, named “digital textbooks,” sampling three experimental courses for trial; mainly getting results in four areas: definition, tools, technology and functions. The experiment is still in progress, the learning pattern centering on digital textbooks is still being explored. In conclusion, how we support different learners successfully in a digital age depends on significant ways on how well we use those new media and new technology when building smarter learning materials and learning environment.


digital textbook; learning material; media; mobile learning; ubiquitous learning

Full Text:



Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kerfin, L. (2008). The “digital natives” debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775–786.

Chao, P. Y. & Chen, G. D. (2005). Interacting with Paper: Coordinate Systems as Tools to Link Paper with Mobile Phones, Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Wireless and Mobile Computing, Networking and Communication, 66–72.

Choi, J. I. & Shin, N. (2008). A digital textbook design principle based on the Universal Design for Learning. Journal of Korean Educational Technology, 25(1), 29–59.

Eason, G. (2011, October 18). Digital textbooks open a new chapter. Retrieved from

Educause. (2006). 7 things you should know about ebooks. Retrieved from

Guang, C., Gong Zhaohua, G. & Ronghuai, H. (2012). E-textbook: Definition, Functions and Key Technical Issues (in Chinese). Open Education Research, 2, 28–32.

Hongbing, M. & Peng, Z. (2001). Understanding and practice of electronic teaching material (in Chinese). Journal of Tarim University of A cultural Reclamation, 9, 35–37.

Jing, C. (2011). Research on design and application of dynamic textbook: a case study of National elaborate course in modern distance education (in Chinese), 7–9.

Junxi, Y. & Chunjuan, L. (2010). Concept discrimination of any-media (in Chinese). Journalism & Communication, 6, 13–16.

Lau, J. (2008). Students’ experience of using electronic textbooks in different levels of education. Scroll, 1(1). Retrieved from

Meurant, R. C. (2010). The iPad and EFL Digital Literacy. Multimedia, Computer Graphics and Broadcasting, 123, 224–234.

Piret, L. & Jaan, M. (2008). What Is Important in Electronic Textbooks for Students of Different Achievement levels? Computers & Education, 50, 1483–1494.

Qiong, Z. (1998). Multimedia electronic textbook realizes opened up learning (in Chinese). Open Education Research, 5, 34–36.

Shuqiang, J., Siwei, M., Shiliang, Z., Shuhui, W., Chunxi, L., Qingming, H., Xilin, C. & Wen, G. (2009). Development report of multimedia technology (in Chinese). China Computer Institute

(2009). 2008 Development Report of China Computer Science and Technology. Beijing: Mechanical Industry Press.

Small, G. W. & Vorgan, G. (2008). iBrain: Surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Sung-Moo, J. (2008). Leading Future Education: Development of Digital Textbooks in Korea. 12th UNESCO-APEID International Conference Quality Innovations for Teaching and Learning, 3.

Tan, Q. & Kinshuk. (2009). Client mobile software design principles for mobile learning system. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies, 3(1), 32–37.

The Open University of China. (2008). Technology norm of learning materials of the Radio and TV universities. Beijing: China Central Radio and TV University Press, 10–30.

Xiaotang, Y. (2011). Ubiquitous learning: theory, pattern and learning materials (in Chinese). Distance Education in China, 6, 69–73.

Zhenghua, L. (2009). Tendency of e-textbooks and the scheme of digital publishing. Research of textbooks, 2(2), 112–118.