In 2008 the Australian Computer Society commissioned the development of an e-leaning course in green information and communications technology (ICT), in response to research showing that computers were causing a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions (1. The course used a mentored collaborative approach to online Learning implemented using the the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS) 2. The course is now also run at the masters level by the Australian National University 3. To make the course materials easier to understand and maintain they are now provided as an eBook in various electronic formats 4.
The first implementation of the course used the LMS to offer dozens of electronic documents, discussion forums, assessment items and other resources to the student. This was confusing for the students and difficult to maintain. The different electronic documents can be in different formats (HTML, PDF and eBook formats) which need different viewers to open also caused problems.
The first revision of the course for ANU consolidated the reading materials into one eBook, implemented with the Moodle Book Module. Each weekly topic for the course is a chapter in the book, with readings and questions at the end of each chapter. Other materials are appendixes in the eBook. Each chapter and appendix is referenced from the LMS with a hypertext link, at the relevant point in the course schedule.
The chapters and appendices are each implemented as a HTML web page, carefully formatted to allow for reading on a wide range of devices and for conversion to eBook formats. This works with desktop web browsers as well as smart phones and tablet computers.
The Moodle Book module has the disadvantage of requiring the use of Moodle, thus limiting access to the notes to enrolled students. To make the notes more widely available, the HTML of the chapters was exported to an external web server. This required no changes to the HTML. The web pages were also converted to Amazon Kindle and ePub format for the Apple iPad. These conversions required slight changes to the HTML used.
The HTML of the chapters was also imported into OpenOffice.org as sub-documents of a word processing mater document, to produce a typeset PDF document. This PDF is offered as an eBook and also used to produce a print-on-demand paperback book version of the notes.
E-learning is aided by the use of content using a book metaphor, implemented using web pages, PDF or an eBook reader. The same content can be provided in multiple eBook formats and on paper. Separating the course content from the interactive elements of the LMS makes it easier for the student and course maintainer.
Interface and course designers need to use simple and familiar designs for students using on-line learning materials. The book remains a very useful way to present educational materials. Even when translated into its electronic equivalent and allowing for interactive activities and non-linear ways to navigate the material, the familiar book structure provides somewhere for the students to return to when lost.
2 Lindley, D. 2007 Computer Professional Education using Mentored and Collaborative Online Learning. IJCIM Special Issues on e-learning. Vol.15 No. SP4, November. URL: http://www.ijcim.th.org/v15nSP4/P09SEARCC_ComputerProfessionalEducation.pdf
4 Worthington, T 2011. ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future, Tomw Communications. URL: http://www.tomw.net.au/ict_sustainability/index.shtml
Green IT; Cloud Computing; eScholarship; Learning Environments; Sustainable ICT education; postgraduate studies
This is a demonstration for OzCHI Conference 2011, 1 December 2011:
Notes are available with more detail:
Contact the author:
Telephone: 0419 496150
Tom Worthington is an independent IT consultant. He is also an Adjunct Lecturer in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University and a tutor for the Australian Computer Society.
Demonstration of Using Moodle for Postgraduate Professional Education with eBooks and Smart phones by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.