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.
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The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the Consortium of College and University Media Centers, who provided an award that supported the research study.
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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Schuh, K.L., Van Horne, S. & Russell, Je. E-textbook as object and mediator: interactions between instructor and student activity systems. J Comput High Educ 30, 298–325 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-018-9174-4
- Electronic textbooks
- Cultural-historic activity theory
- Mediating tools
- Adoption of technology