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For the last two weeks I have been frantically re-editing my online open textbook, ‘Teaching in a Digital Age.’ I am relieved and pleased to announce that the book is now finished – or at least as finished as an open online textbook will be, as it’s possible, indeed essential, to continue to add or remove materials to keep it up to date.

So if you get the chance, log in to the book, have a look at it, and, if you can find the time, send me your comments.

The target group

The audience I am reaching out for are primarily:

  • college and university instructors anxious to improve their teaching or facing major challenges in the classroom,
  • school teachers, particularly in secondary or high schools anxious to ensure their students are ready for either post-secondary education or a rapidly changing and highly uncertain job market.

Different ways to use the book

The book will download in epub, pdf, and mobi versions, so it can be printed out or the whole book can be downloaded, for straightforward reading.

It can also be downloaded in xHTML, Pressbooks XML, or WordPress XML from the home page, so it can be edited or adapted for secondary use.

The book is written on the assumption that most reading will be done in chunks of one hour or less, so each section of a chapter can be completed in one hour at the maximum (some sections will be much shorter).

There are many different ways this book could be used. Here are some suggestions:

  • straight read through (over several days) for personal use by individual teachers and instructors: this is probably the least likely use, but there is a logical sequence and a continuous, coherent argument that builds up through the book;
  • specific chapters or sections that are useful or timely can be read by individual faculty or teachers, more as a reference or for a specific purpose, and other sections or chapters can then be read as needed;
  • teachers or instructors can do the activities that follow most sections, mainly for personal reflection, but also to compare their responses to either mine or other readers;
  • the book can be used, whole or in parts, as the core reading for an online course (or part of a course) on how to teach in a digital age. The activities I have suggested can be included, or, if you use one of the editing formats (XHTML, Pressbooks XML or WordPress XML), you can replace the activities with your own;
  • use the book, in parts or as a whole, as preparation for faculty development or pro-d workshops
  • take sections or parts of the book, and combine them with your own materials, for either an online course or for faculty development/pro-d.

See About the book – and how to use it, for more details


I will be doing 13 separate posts summarising each chapter, but in the meantime:

Chapter 1 Fundamental change in Education

This sets the stage for the rest of the book. Chapter 1 looks at the key changes that are forcing teachers and instructors to reconsider their goals and methods of teaching, In particular it identifies the key knowledge and skills that students need in a digital age, and how technology is changing everything, including the context in which we teach.

Chapters 2-5: Epistemology and teaching methods

These chapters address the more theoretical and methodological aspects of teaching and learning in a digital age. Chapter 2 covers different views on the nature of knowledge and how these understandings of knowledge influence theories of learning and methods of teaching. Chapters 3 and 4 analyse the strengths and weaknesses of different methods of teaching ranging from solely campus-based through blended to fully online. Chapter 5 looks at the strengths and weaknesses of MOOCs. These chapters form a theoretical foundation for what follows.

Chapters 6-8: Media and technology

The focus in these three chapters is on how to choose and use different media and technologies in teaching, with a particular focus on the unique pedagogical characteristics of different media. Chapter 8 ends with a set of criteria and a model for making decisions about different media and technologies for teaching.

Chapters 9-10: Modes of delivery and open education

Chapter 9 addresses the question of how to determine what mode of delivery should be used: campus-based; blended or fully online. Chapter 10 examines the potentially disruptive implications of recent developments in open content, open publishing, open data and open research. This chapter above all is a messenger of the radical changes to come to education.

Chapter 11 and Appendix 1: Ensuring quality in teaching in a digital age

These take two different but complementary approaches to the issue of ensuring high quality teaching in a digital age. Chapter 11 suggests nine pragmatic steps for designing and delivering quality teaching in a highly digital teaching context. Appendix 1 looks at all the necessary components of a high quality learning environment.

Chapter 12: Institutional support

This chapter very briefly examines the policy and operational support needed from schools, colleges and universities to ensure relevant and high quality teaching in a digital age.


There are ten ‘what if’ scenarios scattered throughout the book. These are semi-fictional, semi-, because in almost every case, the scenario is based on an actual example. However, I have sometimes combined one or more cases, or extended or broadened the original case. The purpose of the scenarios is to stimulate imagination and thinking about both our current ‘blocks’ or barriers to change, and the real and exciting possibilities of teaching in the future.

Other features

Each chapter ends with a set of key ‘takeaways’ from the chapter, and a complete set of references. There is also a comprehensive bibliography that collects together all the references from the chapters. Most chapter sections end with an activity.

There are also several appendices providing more detailed information to support each chapter, and some sample answers to the questions posed in the activities.


Over to you

As I said, an online, open textbook is dynamic, not static. Changes are possible at any time. Your feedback then will be of immense value, not just to me, but also to future readers.

What have I missed? Is the structure clear? Is it appropriate for the target audience? Is it useful to you, and if so, in what ways?

Above all, can you help me to reach beyond instructional designers, and enthusiasts for online learning, into the main body of instructors and teachers? Can you pass the word on? What would you recommend I do to get to the target audience?

As always, your help will be so much appreciated. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading the book.


  1. Congratulations, Tony. I have been following your work throughout the writing process over this past year and that, in itself, has been very insightful – I look forward to reading your finished book in normal progression-sequence.
    One note: I have the sense that the cover being displayed is not the final version – perhaps it’s one of the design comps – at any rate, there is a watermark on each of the two images used here which, no doubt, will be an issue for the copyright holders.
    Thanks again Tony, for this valuable contribution.

  2. Congratulations Tony. This is an exceellent resource that can be used by different groups of educators in many different ways. Thank you. For sure it will be one of the resources we use in the program that I manage.

  3. Thanks for making this available in electronic format. I’ve downloaded the PDF version and will look forward to reading it. I am wondering if you ran the accessibility checker in Adobe Acrobat, to make the PDF version accessible to screen readers. If you are unfamiliar with this, it is a built in tool. It will tell you if there are any issues as well as how to correct them.

    • Hi, Alice

      My apologies for the delay in replying, but I needed to ask BCcampus technical support for their answer, as I am using their version of Pressbooks. Here’s the answer:

      No, we do not have an accessibility checker for the PDF document. The checker is something that is specific to Adobe Acrobat products and not part of the PDF export engine we use. However, if you have Adobe Acrobat, you could take the PDF document and run the document through the accessibility checker yourself and see what it generates in terms of reports and errors.

      I’m now in the process of doing this, but the BCcampus PDF export is really driven by the html version. To correct things like images appearing on the wrong page, I would have to work through each page individually and move things round in the html version, and even if I get it to work for both html and pdf, there is still the challenge of getting it to fit iPad, Kobo and mobile phone screens. Even then pdf’s can’t handle podcasts, for instance.

      What this means is that without major software development, there is little I can do as an author to ensure consistency between formats in terms of page layout. We’re still in the early stages of the steam engine so far with regard to open publishing. All I can advise is to use the online html version wherever possible. In the meantime, see my later post: Problems with the use of images in open textbooks

  4. Congratulations, Tony! As a lecturer at an ODL institution, this is valuable and we will definitely use it. Many thanks!

  5. Tony, this is more than a comprehensive, landmark book on teaching with online/digital learning (although it is all of that). I think the process by which you created – and opened up – the book is also an exemplar of the ways digital technologies and online interactions can build community around shared knowledge artifacts.

    I will continue to contribute ideas to the Support chapter (12), beginning with the Strategy section 12.6. For the latter, I’ll try to post something weekly or bi-weekly. Meanwhile, I have encouraged some other colleagues to do the same with the chapters and sections where they have specific expertise.

    Over time, could we convene a group to consider how this process of community authorship can be better supported and manages (yes, I am prepared to use the dreaded M word with faculty and other educators…). For example, I did a desk study once about the adaptations of an open textbook hosted in Connexions. I identified 43 customizations by individuals that were recorded in some way within the system. However, almost all of these were directly derived from the original, rather than being 2nd or 3rd generations adaptations building on each other.

    I think a key factor behind this shallow-and-broad development was that it was that it took a lot more work to find adaptations on which you add your further revisions than to just make all your own changes to the original. So the potential for deep interactions around the knowledge artifact was never realized. This is just one example of the ways that our existing technologies get in the way of the interactions we really want to build.

    A resource like the book you have launched – how long will it be before we have to stop calling it ‘your book’? – could become a community hub to advance the learning environment and knowledge networking in our field. Of course this is an area of growing interest as an enabler of open educational practices, and there is a growing body of expertise on which to build (especially some of the JISC work on community aspects of repositories and more recent work by Alison Littlejohn and colleagues). Is this something where BCcampus could talk on a leadership role in extending our existing open technology infrastructures for better alignment with the open professional community we want to build ?

  6. Tony,
    Your classification of the MOOCs is very informative!
    It helped me to understand and provided a needed structure to my own experience: in one of the MOOCourses, which I took , a small group of participants got together (we just differentiated ourselves from the “whole gang”) and, using an alternative platform for the discussions, collaborated to complete assignments. That worked very good because we had a chance to actually use critical thinking and analytic methods to create new knowledge from the course information. I don’t think that idea was totally unique, I’m sure other people may be doing the same, as it is, obviously, the simplest way to go around those dysfunctional discussion forums with too many participants. In terms of your classification I see this example as a case when xMOOC hosts cMOOC(s).

    Thinking about the ways in which human-learners organize themselves in relation to MOOCs type of learning contents, this example looks to me as a sort of anarchic collective direct action or a self organization action, which can occur in complex systems, in this case, within these open access educational resources (including your book!)…


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