Since dawn of civilization reading has been a major source of knowledge and entertainment for humans. Estimates say that an average human reads an hour a day, but not all the reading that we do turns into learning, learning comes many steps ahead in cognitive terms than reading. We can say we learn, only when we understand the meaning and significance of what we read. Learning is being able to recall and apply what you read, when you need it.
Modern reading is gradually shifting to electronic devices, paper books are being replaced by eBooks and online learning systems. Industry statistics suggest that in the developed world nearly a quarter of the reading happens in electronic devices now, and the segment is growing at a rate faster than paper reading. In the rest of the world the trend is catching even faster with growing usage of handheld devices – smartphones and tablets, and availability of titles online. With the steady acceptance of digital reading and it becoming part of the mainstream, the act of ‘reading’ is beginning to change its nature for us.
Advancement of technologies in digital content are beginning to blur the line between reading and learning – a lot of interactivity is inculcated in current eBooks and online learning management systems (LMSs), making the act of reading an engaging, immersive and experiential process. Modern eBooks have underlying features which make them a source of immersive learning, urging the readers to think, react, and comprehend the significance of what they are reading.
“Never read a book without a pen in your hand” is what Benjamin Franklin said more than 200 years ago, but we do this only in rare cases, we mostly just read through the books. Digital reading has made it convenient to interact with the book, just a few taps and we can highlight, annotate, bookmark, and research the words or phrases without having to carry a pen and litter up the pages. We only learn when we interact with our surrounding, and in case of reading, being interactive is to strive to comprehend the text, form opinions on the matter or even argue with the author.
A book doesn’t have to be merely filled with text as a source of information or knowledge, eBooks and online learning modules can accommodate a variety of multimedia to make the content engaging. Images, audio, video, simple games and other graphics containing relevant content augment the textually provided information. This helps in deeper comprehension, raising the fun quotient of the content. Simulations can be used to provide hands-on experience of procedures that can’t be practically performed everyday. An illustrative musical video for teaching Alphabet for children, and an animation of how visceral organs function for a student of surgery can be integrated in the book helping children learn faster while having more fun and surgeons learn better.
A book consists of linear content in which the information arrives gradually as we progress, from introduction toward the end of the lesson. But what if you are already familiar with many components of the lesson (or the book), for which you don’t need any reading. Adaptive eBooks take you through an individualized path wherein you can skip the familiar parts and progress on to what is new to you, saving plenty of time and effort. Adaptive eBooks have popular presence in online learning scenario, where lessons can be customized for improved comprehension and efficient learning.
Measuring the Output
We read to learn, and we need to measure how much we have learnt, assessments are important part of learning. With eBooks and online learning platforms, assessments can be made an integral part of the reading/ learning system (eBook or the course) itself. Integrated assessment is an extended but vital part of the transformation of reading into learning. From offhand quizzes to question banks for regular assessments, the output of learning can be measured in the application/ platform itself.
Academic learning is an intricate process involving myriad of resources, we can’t get all the information in one book, we refer to related books, journals etc. Semantic searching is a powerful technology which makes the task easier. An information bank stores networked blocks of information based on relevance of the topics, which can be accessed by readers. Semantic search is different from the normal search, as in semantics, the machine has deeper understanding of the concepts wherein the result of search is more precise and always extracted from the academic information bank.
According to independent research, with interactive eLearning modules retention rates are 25-60% compared to 8% in traditional learning. Companies employing online learning found that participants learned nearly five times more material without increasing time spent in training. Interactive eBooks and online course modules are driving reading towards learning. In near future reading will not be a mere act of poring over the pages, interactivity and engagement will urge the reader to comprehend the significance of content, transforming the act of reading into deeper learning.