E-Books as Open Educational Resources: Local Government in North Carolina Textbook

According to several educational technology foresight studies, e-books have become an influential emerging technology for teaching and learning that is likely to play a significant role in higher education (cf., Horizon Report 2010, Horizon Report 2011, Innovative Pedagogy Report 2012). The growing dissemination and the increased ease of use of digital readers and tablets have contributed to this trend.

To understand the impact on teaching and learning, one has to first navigate the complex e-book landscape:

  • In a narrow definition, e-books are documents specifically designed for mobile e-readers. These readers can be either devices (e.g., Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo E-Reader) or applications (e.g., iBooks, FB Reader, Google Play) that allow for display on iPads, tablets and smartphones. Depending on the functionality of the reader, e-books allow users to interact with the material by searching, bookmarking, annotating, indexing and connecting to external resources like dictionaries, encyclopedias, websites or social media channels.
  • In a broader sense, e-books can comprise a variety of digital documents such as websites, hypermedia learning objects (e.g., SCORM packages), online periodicals, e-journals, Web-based catalogues, PDF repositories and various mobile applications.

Textbook

The open access textbook we are developing is an update to the 2012 edition of ‘Local Government in North Carolina’ by the UNC School of Government Professor emeritus Gordon Whitaker. It describes how local governments serve their community and how anyone can help their local government build the kind of community they want to live in. While the previous edition was chiefly aimed at school teachers, the new resource is designed for use in multiple contexts:

  • K-12 Civic Education
  • Informal Civic Education Spaces (i.e., library programs)
  • SOG classes
  • Citizen Academies
  • Community Leadership Programs
  • Carolina MPA (service learning opportunity for MPA students)

Key features include

  • Multiple formats that support reading online, downloading / printing PDF, and e-reader access on kindle (mobi) and other tablets and devices (epup).
  • Podcasts with audio interviews of local government officials and scholars (podcast channel on podcast.sog.unc.edu)
  • Case Studies, study questions, quizzes, quests
  • ‘Action steps’, follow-up transfer learning activities
  • Augmented Reality elements (HP Reveal)
  • Interactive data charts (tableau public)
  • Licensing as OER (creative commons)

Taken together, open content and multimedia features have the potential to amplify the reach of the publication, and make it a versatile tool to foster digital citizenship education. This section provides an overview of the content strategies and production tools we are leveraging to achieve this goal.

PressBook

The e-book Local Government in North Carolina is produced with PressBook, a WordPress based platform that allows us to publish e-books in multiple formats (epub, mobi, html, pdf) from one single source document. This allows for maximum accessibility so that people with different e-readers (Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc.) and platforms (phone, web) can use the resource with ease. It also allows for a variety of export options for other learning organizations to adapt the content.

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