Living textbook to intensify deeper learning

dr. M.J. (Marie-Jose) Verkroost
Contact View profile R.L.G. (Rob) Lemmens
Contact View profile




Blended learning & virtual labs


Tool Project UT Curriculum Level

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Short description of innovation

Marie-José Verkroost, Rob Lemmens and other colleagues of Faculty ITC (Geo-information Science and Earth Observation) of the University of Twente started a project to create a Living Textbook.

Improved answer

Digital books are now often transferred to static pdf-files, that are difficult to read. Students frequently encounter difficulties in structuring text and lose grip on Geo-information concepts and their relationships. The Living textbook might become the improved answer to the digitalisation process of printed textbooks. It is based on the ‘aquabrowser’ concept, a search engine based on associative searching. Ultimately we would like to develop a living textbook that is adapted on how it is being used and that shows the latest scientific insights and is linked to different types of media, such as video and animations. Changes in the textbook are induced by students and lecturers. We strive to publish a printed book from the digital living textbook instead of the other way around.

Project objective

In Spring 2016 Marie-José Verkroost, Rob Lemmens and other colleagues of Faculty ITC (Geo-information Science and Earth Observation) of the University of Twente started a project to create a Living Textbook. The project aims to create a different type of textbook, suitable to be used in modern blended learning and distance education settings. One aspect of this is to provide a better overview of the relationships between the concepts that are explained in the textbook by using a visual overlay, a concept map, connected to the digital book in a Wiki environment. This concept map should help students getting a better grip on the course materials. A first pilot shows that both students and lecturers are enthusiastic about this new learning tool sponsored by 4TU.CEE.

Strong points


Rob Lemmens conducts research on ontologies and visualisation techniques and works on the software of the concept graphs that allow students to see and explore the relationships between concepts in a non-pre-described order of reading and learning to help promote deeper learning. We are now in the phase of bringing together the overlay of related concepts, also known as the ontology in a ‘concept map. The fact that we also map the different relations between concepts makes this living textbook unique.


Interesting finding of the pilot is that the overlay already showed gaps and duplications in the digitalised textbook. The living textbook can overcome these issues. Students in our long distance learning programme find this tool useful. It helps them find their way in theory and explore more deeply. The students were given tasks and followed for an hour by eye-tracking them in a usability test. This provided relevant input in optimising the overlay, such as better use of colours or using different sizes for symbols. 


Conceptual thinking

Not only the students were enthusiastic, lecturers are positive too. Each lecturer is asked to build a piece of the concept map. They enjoy making knowledge better available and do see added value for the students. They report that it is also beneficial to themselves since they are better aware of cross relations between domains and are forced to look beyond their own specialisation, which enhances conceptual thinking.