How the eBook has evolved into the interactive ‘eManual’ and assessment tool
We have come a long way since the days when training companies were afraid to share their material electronically, as a PDF say, because of concerns for the protection of their intellectual property. No-one wanted their material to be stolen and shared across the Internet. The arrival of Digital Rights Management (DRM) software which would protect the eBook from copying, printing and onward distribution took away that fear. Even going so far as to watermark the pages of each individual book.
The first DRM products were totally focussed on security and protection with the result that they did nothing for the learner’s user experience. They did allow for the training manual to be read off line through an App – always useful for reading material on the daily commute. But, the locking down of the intellectual property, resulted in a dead ‘book behind glass’, searchable from an index but little other interactivity.
New Generation Readers
The next generation of readers were a significant step forward in the user experience. The readers can work on-line and off-line across multiple platforms. They did this via the use of Apps which could be downloaded to IOS, Android or Microsoft phones and tablets. The readers still starting with a PDF format manual, but can allow for the highlighting of text and the taking of notes within the eBook. Each user can now capture their thoughts within the reader – potentially sharing notes with a predefined group of fellow learners – the notes being transferred between platforms even if taken when off line. The book now having many of the features and convenience of a paper training manual, started to make inroads into the training world. But the technology did not stop there.
The latest generation of readers can read books created as PDFs but can also read the ePub file and with that comes an extended range of functionality. Firstly, the ePub allows for a range of tools to change the appearance of the text itself. This could be changing the font, the background and colours, including those tools which allow the partially sighted or the dyslexic to have significantly better access. The result is an appreciable enhancement of accessibility to those with learning difficulties and thus an extension of the learning audience.
Secondly, the ePub can have hyperlinks embedded in the text taking the reader to reference web sites for further reading, to an assessment site or the training company’s web site to book the next course! And as well as embedding hyperlinks the ePub allows for the embedding of video. Once downloaded the video can viewed from the App even when not on line. Now the eBook evolves beyond being an electronic manual to full training experience.
But ePubs can go further. They allow for questions to be embedded in the book with multiple choice questions and embedded answers. Now chapters can be closed with formative assessment within the training manual. The reader can test their knowledge as they go – with revealed answers pointing to further reading.
Linked Assessment tools
The new generation of eManuals written in ePub format with inbuilt links can now be connected to full assessment tools. Built alongside the eManual can be a site with assessment by multiple choice and free form questions. Questions either set by the training organisation or a bank of questions the trainer can choose from to be tailored to the particular class. On line assessment can marked and graded with trainer access to the all course participants on one dashboard. Thus, the trainer has immediate access to the delegate’s level of understating and performance.
The great thing about the eManual though comes from the analytics, something that is simply not available in the conventional printed training manual. The new generation of readers can track the movement of every delegate as they move through the training. How long do they spend on a page? Which areas they make notes on?, which areas do they seek additional information on or not bother to read! Where do they study? On which devices? When do they study? Do they never open the book again after leaving the training course?
The users of an eManual leave an electronic footprint and whilst we are not looking to spy on the privacy of the individual, the consolidated data on how the training materials are used is invaluable in course design. Understanding where the delegate struggles enables the courses to be honed to give the best learning experience.
If a business has a number of different trainers or training partners delivering material then the analytics will show how their delegates are reacting to their training. Clearly end of training assessment also does this but not with the detail that an analytical dashboard can provide. If a training partner is not succeeding the analytics may point to the reasons.
The eBook has come a long way and the future developments look ever more exciting
By: David Platt