An implementation and evaluation of the impact of e-book verses traditional textbook delivery on student uptake and use of course resources.





Time frame



Publishers, authors and institutions have invested heavily in the development of suites of resources that use a range of new technologies to facilitate learning in traditional educational environments, homes, workplaces and more recently in transit among these diverse settings. This variety of learning materials and delivery modes provides choice for students, but also might potentially causes fragmentation of the learning narrative, information overload, confusion about activity scheduling and a waste of university and publishers resources in the development of unused resources. Knowledge of the use of components of text and online resource suites will streamline production, simplify students’ choice and enable academics to provide a sensible order for undertaking learning activities.

The proposed project will deliver an e-book, constructed based upon the customisation of an existing Pearson Education text. Customisation will include highlighting and annotating text to reflect activities stipulated in the course guide. The e-book allows for just-in-time and customised delivery to flexible, full colour screens (via notebooks, netbooks, iPhones, laptops and desktop computers), and has the potential to provide audio and video components, the ability for handwriting, as well as margins for note-taking and text highlighting [1]. Previous research explored initial user perceptions and the use of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader [2]. The cost of an e-book is approximately 55% of the price of a traditional text. Publishers provide a selection of titles via a joint web-based delivery (‘Vital Source’) and the sales of e-books are rising rapidly.

The students in a common core first year course (ISYS2056 Business Computing 1) will be given the option of using a hardcopy text and CDROM, or an e-book. The e-book will enable students to pull information without direct access to teachers. “The acquisition and exchange of data and information is designed to be as simple and efficient as possible, prompting the user for decisions only when necessary, and exchanging only information that is determined to be relevant to the user” [3]. Academic use of the highlighting and annotation features of the e-book application may improve uptake and use of available resources outside the classroom [4]. The focus of this project will be in identifying ways of utilising e-book highlighting and annotation to guide students through prescribed resources.


The proposed project will review and upgrade:

  • The technology instructional resources currently housed on a CDROM and used to deliver workshops (Current versions of Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Word, FrontPage now Web Expression)
  • Create and trial an e-book based upon the customisation of an existing Pearson Education text used for Business Computing 1. The e-book will be made available through Vital Source which includes texts from a range of disciplines and a consortium of publishers.
  • Customisation will include the academic highlighting and annotating text to reflect activities stipulated in the course guide. This will provide an opportunity to improve the links between the conceptual and theoretical material provided in lectures and computer workshops.
  • Ascertain the impact of the innovative use of e-book technology, as a vehicle to increase uptake of digitised learning tools outside traditional classrooms. (The texts retail for approximately 55% of retail price of the traditional texts)
  • Students can highlight and annotate text using iPads, phones and mobile computers during lectures. Notes take e.g. Important for the exam can be used to search the text at the end of semester.
  • Students can search the text based on a glossary of terms.
  • This study will be undertaken in partnership with Pearson Education Australia. The proposed research is innovative as the technology applications are novel. The possibility of using blogs and wikis (available as social networking tools in conjunction with the e-books) to alter the current assessment paradigm will be investigated.

The proposed project is significant for a number of reasons:

  1. This investigation supports more efficient and effective use of suites of resources geared towards learning occurring outside the traditional classroom. E-books provide the means for students to take responsibility for their choices in relation to participation in teaching and learning interaction.
  2. Access to e-books will assist students with their time management, self-organisation, information management and communication, all of which are critical, work-ready skills. A need for development of these capabilities has already been validated by industry and academia [5].
  3. E-books provide an innovative method of reminding students of work requirements, reinforcing important concepts and theories and enabling control of the learning schedule to be shifted to the learner.
  4. Understanding the components of resource suites that are accessed and/or used by students will reduce both publishers and universities resource development costs, which may be passed on to students.


Both the ‘usefulness’ and the student’s perceptions of the impact of e-books on their use of available resources will be evaluated.

Data collection will involve:

  • An initial student focus group to ascertain the reasons for the choice of the e-book rather than traditional prescribed texts;
  • A questionnaire issued to all stakeholders at the conclusion of the pilot semester; and
  • One focus group with academics and another with students at the conclusion of the pilot semester to identify student satisfaction and academic perception of the impact on learning outcomes.


The proposed research is innovative as the technology applications are novel. This pilot of the e-book application at RMIT provides an opportunity to evaluate the impact on resource component usage and student learning outcomes.

The system enables dynamic information transfer, with live updates, and potentially allows students to better schedule and organise themselves. The use of the e-book to support learning complements students’ social involvement with Facebook, wikis and blogs as they can access and add to the e-book using these as a doorway. This improves the student’s ability to adapt to the current rapidly changing work-place.

An evaluation of the impact of the e-book will be produced including impact on:

  • Learning resource uptake
  • Upgraded versions of instructional resources
  • Effectiveness of resource suite components
  • Staff instruction to students
  • Student learning

Guidelines for resource construction and implementation of e-books will be created based on an analysis of the results of one trial, with those choosing to use the presently prescribed text to serve as a control group. Review and evaluation tools will be utilised to gauge the students’ and academics’ response to e-books. Ethics clearance will be obtained before conducting any data collection. The TAM model (and subsequent refinements) will be extended using the TPB to predict e-book adoption. Adaptation of the TAM model to evaluate e-books requires the collection of qualitative data for students and academics participating in the trial.

Time frame

The e-book will be ready for trial at the commencement of semester 2 and data will be collected and analysed at the conclusion of semester 2.

Student focus groups will be used extensively to assess student responses to the e-book innovation.


1.Egan, C. (2009), Students to dump textbooks for e-books, The Sunday Age, 16 August, p. 5.

2.Dennis T. Clark, D. T., Goodwin, S. P., Samuelson, T. and Coker, C., (2008), A qualitative assessment of the Kindle e-book reader: results from initial focus groups, Performance Measurement and Metric, 9(2), pp. 118-129.3.Huang, A., Pulli, K., and Rudolph, L., (2005), Kimono: Kiosk-Mobile Phone Knowledge Sharing System, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nokia Research Centre, HIT Lab NZ, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

4. Richardson, J., and Lenarcic, J., (2007), E-inclusion through text messaging: The emergence of an administrative ecology within a university student population via the use of a mobile academic information delivery system, Proceedings of the 20th Bled eConference, June 4-6, Bled, Slovenia.

5.Marginson, S., (1998), Value Creation in the Production of Services: a Note on Marx. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 22(5), pp. 573-586.

6.Davis, F. D. (1989). Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Quarterly, 13(3), pp. 319-340.

7.Davis, F. D. (1993) User acceptance of information technology: system characteristics, user perceptions and behavioural impacts. International Journal Man-Machine studies, 38, pp. 475-487.

8.Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, pp. 179-211.

Alignment to University, College or School strategic priorities

Strategic Alignment

The project is in accord with the innovation themes expressed in the University’s approach to teaching and learning, including: Producing work-ready graduates with a hunger for life-long learning; and providing a positive student experience


  • This project seeks to produce ‘Work Ready’ graduates through the adoption of innovative use new technologies (in this case eBook technologies) of the types that students will experience in the business world of the future. In this instance an emerging technology that converges many current social networking technologies is being applied to existing infrastructures in the education industries. The technology application usage will increase uptake of digitised learning resource components developed to enable university, home and workplace learning.
  • Further, the capacity of the technology to facilitate more effective learning, in particular within a large class environment, is aligned with a focus within RMIT to improve the teaching of large classes, and in particular student satisfaction with those courses as reflected in the relevant Good Teaching Scores