Using eTextbooks in your teaching

eTextbooks – a growing trend

The use of eTextbooks in the UK is increasing and has been rising steadily since 2011. The University of Plymouth eTextbook service initially started as a project in the School of Psychology with Dr Phil Gee in 2011 and has since grown to provide over 80 per cent of current first year University of Plymouth undergraduate students with a package of free eTextbook titles.

This package of free eTextbook titles varies according to programme needs, but has an average retail value in excess of £200 (2017/18 academic year). The students are provided with free personal one to one copies of their core reading via the Kortext digital textbook platform.

Student-facing eTextbook information and key facts

“eTextbooks benefit my assignments and add a range of references to my work. It enables me to have easy access to core resources which saves time from going to the library or buying books.”

BA (Hons) Education Studies student 

“Students like the accessibility and the fact that they can access eTextbooks wherever they are on laptops, iPads and phones...”

Senior tutor Miles Opie shares his thoughts and experiences on the eTextbooks scheme and its impact on his teaching at the University of Plymouth.

Why are eTextbooks good for students?

  • No cost to the student.
  • Accessible 24/7 online or offline.
  • Smart tools to encourage student engagement.
  • Portable, students can download books on up to four devices.
  • A personal copy that once downloaded is their’s forever.

The eTextbooks service has been designed inclusively from the outset to deliver core reading content equitably to all student groups covered by the scheme. The titles provided are in a fully accessible format, and are available for download and use offline on up to four different devices benefiting disabled, distance learning and work placement students.

The provision of core titles across a class cohort helps support the pathway into higher education and address hidden student costs. This means that academic staff can be assured that all of their students, regardless of affluence, gender or ethnicity, have access to the reading selected to support their studies.

What other benefits do eTextbooks offer?

Feedback received from academic staff who have had eTextbooks on their programmes has been overwhelmingly positive and indicates that the provision of eTextbooks makes it easier for their students to access core reading recommended for their course. They confirm that eTextbooks align with assessments and support student learning on their programme. Staff chose to engage for reasons such as equity of access to content for all students in a class, support for different teaching methods by enabling students to prepare in advance of lectures, and improved student engagement with content.

The Kortext platform offers a range of smart tools and accessibility features to its users that can support both learning and teaching:

  • Convert to speech with Read Aloud.
  • Change font and size to suit user needs.
  • Adjust line spacing, margin width, and text justification to help differing reading needs.
  • Search, make notes, add bookmarks and highlights on your text.
  • Make personal notes and create a notebook.
  • Copy and paste sections of the text to the notes.
  • Collaborate and share notes.

How to use eTextbooks in your teaching practice

  • If you want to discuss ways of incorportaing eTextbooks in your teaching contact Teaching and Learning Support
  • Information on how to  provide  eTextbooks in the first year of an undergraduate course contact your Information Specialist
  • Attend training to find out all about eTextbooks and the Kortext platform from your Information Specialist. The eTextbook team run workshops or you can arrange a one-to-one meeting.
  • Catch up with the eTextbook team at their drop-in sessions in the library for a refresher. Check dates with your information specialist.
  • Flip the classroom – for example, set focused directed reading tasks for discussion during timetabled sessions. During teaching sessions, implement interactive activities to assimilate knowledge gained from pre-reading. Talk to Teaching and Learning Support for guidance on Flipped classrooms and access the  7 Steps Guide to Flipped Classrooms 
  • Lead by example and use your eTextbook in your teaching sessions – for example, model for students how to use notes to summarise a section or paragraph.
  • Use the smart tools to embed notes and suggested reading.
  • Promote the use of eTextbooks during assessment writing – for example, demonstrate how copying text from an eTextbook to a Word document also copies across the reference and how this can encourage correct referencing and avoid incidents of plagiarism.
  • Share best practice with your colleagues and let Teaching and Learning Support know if  the way you're using the eTextbooks is effective.
  • Create a group and communicate with your students to share notes and highlights.
  • Use Kortext analytics to form a picture of who accesses the materials and the cohort’s reading pattern. You can glean information on who has registered and downloaded the eTextbook and who hasn’t. You can take appropriate action – for example, have a conversation with those who haven’t (especially if this relates to a wider pattern of disengagement), or design further activities to encourage engagement across the whole class.

Information and support on eTextbooks

For support in curriculum design and to discuss ways of using eTextbooks in your teaching contact Teaching and Learning Support 

The eTextbook team in the library run staff and student training workshops. It is recommended that staff, particularly those teaching first year undergraduate students, attend a workshop or arrange to speak to their information specialist to find out more.  Contact:

A guide is available from the Library Guides – eTextbooks Support: Kortext eTextbooks. This is designed 'to help staff and students with finding, downloading and using the free core eTextbooks'. 

Visit the Kortext Support guides and watch bitesize video tutorials.

A practice example of using eTextbooks

Pre-session:  In a selected eTextbook students are directed to four case studies. Students are split into groups and asked to explore their response to one of the given case studies, highlighting key terms, annotating the text and sharing their annotations. A response to the case study requires them to do further reading between sessions to garner more information about: the conditions presented in the case study; their legal obligations; client advocacy; and processes to move the case forward.

In session: Students pool their reading and findings. Students present the case study from the eTextbook to the larger group, justify the approaches that they recommend, and facilitate a short discussion.

Link to assessment:  Students will respond to a case study scenario in their assessment. This activity provides a scaffolded practice run, and an opportunity for verbal feedback from the tutor.


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