Tag Archives: e-books

The work ahead

There are two key considerations that apply to any student, whatever their mode of study, and it is imperative that the supervisory team make these clear from the outset. Firstly, it needs to be understood and emphasised, by both student and staff, that the research project belongs to the student; only s/he can make a success of this. The supervisors should provide initial direction, and will offer constant advice and reinforcement throughout the period of study, but the important decisions – for better or worse – need to be made by the student. It is the student who will need to advocate and defend the thesis, and who will reap the rewards.

Secondly, the supervisors need to provide for an appropriate induction for the new student as soon as they start working. No matter how smart and self-confident a new student might be, it is wrong to assume that s/he will just “pick things up” as they go along. Whether it is the simple matter of making introductions to co-workers, or the more complex business of learning specific research methods and IT technical skills, a common-sense approach dictates that the supervisors should assume a zero baseline of experience until proven otherwise. Research has clearly shown the benefits of a good induction for students starting on undergraduate courses, and it makes no sense to assume that it would be otherwise for postgraduate research students. In fact, it is very likely that the research students will soon begin to overtake the supervisors, both in the details of their specific research methodology and also, going on current trends, in their adoption and use of new digital applications such as social media services.

For these reasons, it makes sense to have an online, or at least a digital, version of the skill-set and supporting resources that will be issued to research students at their induction. No matter how good your memory is, or how copious your note-taking, there are a lot of new things to remember and the new research student is unlikely to remember them all accurately. Nor do the need to. An online repository of relevant information, either on the institutional intranet, or on the open internet, immediately allows users different levels of access. Slow learners can re-read and re-visit the information at a later date; all learners can visit the information for revision, or when the need-to-know becomes necessary; and fast learners can delve into layers of additional information – the extras that are nice-to-know in greater depth than can normally be covered in tutorial sessions.

Another important point in favour of compiling a suite of resources online is that the very act of being required to think through all the possible situations and resources that might be needed by the research students tends to mean that a comprehensive resource can be built up. The need to prepare in advance for an asynchronous reader at a geographically distant location, rather than photocopying last minute, ad hoc guidance to be handed out in a classroom, generally results in a better designed set of resources. Of course, an additional beauty is that these resources can be updated easily and that they are available 24-7, unlike any supervisor that I know!


Video kit

This shoebox arrived in the post today. It is the creation of one of my technical colleagues. It contains everything needed to record video and audio that can be use as additional digital learning resources to accompany an e-textbook that we are working on. There is a compact video camera, audio recording gear, guerilla tripod, cables, instructions, and spare batteries – all in robust snap-lock boxes. The idea is that the shoebox will tour the colleges and the participants will self-record their contributions, which we will later edit and add the clips to a companion website to supplement the e-book. We are trying to streamline the recording process so that we can easily produce high-quality digital resources to augment text and other learning resources for a wide range of subjects. We will document the process so that others can learn from our experiences.Videokit

e-books again

e-books again

I have been doing some work on e-books recently, so I was delighted to learn that we have just won a contract from JISC to research “the institution as an e-book publisher”. It will entail us producing a couple of e-books as core texts, investigating how these books are used, and documenting the whole process so that we can share this with other institutions that want to create their own e-book service. Ours will be particularly targeted at linking with our online education provision, but enabling students to download the key text for offline access on their kindle, or iPad etc. A key part for me will be the creation of a companion website that will allow us to add and update the e-book, and also to allow the addition of other “layers” of information, such as case studies and examples of how the key concepts in the e-book can be contextualised in various situations. This interactivity with the printed word is a novel aspect of digital texts, and I am looking forward to experimenting with the ideas. We have a good team at the UHI and we will be working with colleagues at Edinburgh Napier University, so keep an eye open for the e-tips project (e-textbooks institutional publication service) it’s coming tour way soon…. 🙂



Today my first novel came out as a self-published e-book on Amazon. I have written/edited 28 books, but normally through a conventional publisher. This is the first self-published e-book that I have done, and I am amazed at how easy it is! Once you have the book and cover files, it takes literally five minutes to upload all the details to Amazon… and it’s there! Available to the world! . This has got to be a fantastic boon for academic literature! The last few textbooks that I have done have costed £70+ in hardback, and as the publishers only do short print-runs, they go out of print quickly. With self-published e-books, we can release short academic works directly to the public. True, it means that we need to deal with proof-reading and quality-checks ourselves, but should we not do this anyway? This would even be good for releasing Kindle versions of course materials and back-up texts, as well as monographs, philosophy, short biographies etc. It surely is going to be crucial in the next Research Excellence Framework? (Why would you value a journal article that a few down people cite when you can demonstrate 100’s, perhaps 1000’s of e-downloads?