The use of social media on mobile devices to support the co-reading of eTextbooks

Doctoral Thesis


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A textbook is a boundary object of interest among students within given communities, in some instance, a region or a whole country. Students in such communities have the possibility to engage collaboratively to study and gain a better understanding of similar content together. Collaborative work leverages mass communications that have become a beneficial means of enabling knowledge construction through independent and flexible learning mechanisms. Currently, textbooks are presented as PDFs on online portals with links to discussion forums for discussing the given resources. However, one major challenge is the lack of connection between the content being discussed and where it is discussed. Also, separating forums from their content leads to the discussion of topics that are sometimes irrelevant to the course content as discussions are mainly for general inquiries. In this dissertation, the feasibility of an academically focused social networking system that combines forums with their respective resources was investigated. This research explores various ways of altering the presentation of forums in an attempt to improve co-reading and increase textbook related interactions. An experimental system with internal forums, which are embedded inside eTextbooks, was created. The traditional form of rendering discussions as a standalone platform was also presented as a control system. Our objectives were to determine if the presentation of discussion forums inside resources affect the number and quality of interactions. Another objective was to determine if anonymous identity is essential for collaborating on educational learning platforms. The system was tested and evaluated with high school students as well as university students through various experiments that compared the traditional forums to the proposed system. This work adds nuance to our understanding of effective co-reading for shared boundary objects.