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E-Textbook as Object and Mediator: Interactions between Instructor and Student Activity Systems

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Journal of Computing in Higher Education Volume 30, Number 2, ISSN 1042-1726


In this paper, we discuss the activity systems of students and instructors who used an interactive e-textbook in their instructional activities. Data included instructor interviews and student journals about e-textbook use in eight university courses. Exploration of the data through a cultural-historical activity theory lens indicated that e-textbook use can be limited when students act on it merely as an object without any intentional goal. Without requirements by the instructor, the embedded tools in the e-textbook may do little to support the student activity in the system. In addition, many instructors, as well, approached the e-textbook as an object, and a number of them did not include the e-textbook in their own activity systems. Considering the e-textbook as a mediating tool to address other goals (such as completing an assignment) or to support instructional decisions by faculty through developed awareness of students' understandings, positioned the e-textbook as a mediator of learning, rather than an object on which to act. We end our discussion pointing to the need for an expansive transformation regarding the use of e-textbooks so they may be positioned as new kinds of mediating tools for learning.


Schuh, K.L., Van Horne, S. & Russell, J.e. (2018). E-Textbook as Object and Mediator: Interactions between Instructor and Student Activity Systems. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 30(2), 298-325. Retrieved December 4, 2020 from .

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