For an upcoming expert meeting about new trends for the development and use of digital learning resources I am asked to write a statement that summarizes my current perception. I will try to explain this perspective with the concepts of diversification, integration, extension and personalisation:
First of all I think that the diversity of learning resources has been seriously extended through mobile apps and new forms of eBooks. While there are several studies looking at the impact of digital books and compare e.g. the reading experience the rise of tablet computers has redefined the field. New forms of haptic and gesture-based interfaces allow new forms of interaction with the content. This is from my perspective not only the addition of new structures for learning resources but the combination between motoric and cognitive activities might activate unexplored potentials.
The recent discussion about eBooks has brought back the textbooks into the digital ecosystems of learners. While most initiatives in technology-enhanced learning would not have doubts about the importance of textbooks as learning content, the books themselfes have not been a prominent topic in this community. Withe new authoring options, standards and reading- and exploration-devices digital books have been put into the center of the digital ecosystems of 21st century learners again.
While until today the boundaries between a digital book and other parts of electronic learning environments were quite clear new technical standards and design options have blurred these boundaries and opened again new opportunities for seamless learning experiences. Especially the ePub 3 standard and its Media Overlay element has offered an interface to connect a book to other learning resources, learning environments, activities or discussions. The inclusion of all kind of widgets in eBooks will also blurr the boundaries betwen mobile apps and eBooks.
The combination of mobile devices and new learning resources enables the use of simple sensors (e.g. GPS) to personalize the content. In addition to this adaptive personalisation there are at the same time many options for active adaptation by the learners. Imagine a modular process in which a student has to decide which components should be part of a textbook: Text, Multimedia content, discussion forums etc.
Despite all optimistic perspectives I share the worry that the great Tim Berners-Lee has communicated some days ago at the WWW conference in Lyon. Content in media channels like iTunesU and applications in closed app-stores are a reproduction of the old walled gardens of the past which enable digital resources that are not open for easy linking, commenting, rating etc. Instead, we should strive for an open internet with open learning resources.