Online and Digital Learning

Book recommendations: recommended reading – elearning, web usability and development

There are many books out there on elearning, higher education teaching, web usability, accessibility (and all the other things I’m interested in). Though the list below is by no means comprehensive, it will provide you with a good starting point for your office library.

Book Recommendations

There are many books out there on elearning, higher education teaching, web usability, accessibility (and all the other things I’m interested in). Though the list below is by no means comprehensive, it will provide you with a good starting point for your office library. I will add to this list as and when I come across more useful books and update my comments as technology and approaches change. So, if you are a learning technologist, VLE support or web developer, these books are recommended:

Technology-Enhanced Learning / Higher Education

Learning in Groups

Learning in Groups: A Handbook for Face-to-face and Online Environments by David Jaques and Gilly Salmon, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0415365260.  As learning technologists, we are often asked to solve learning problems to do with either small or large group work. This book is a good introduction to the various teaching theories relating to groups and the interplay between face-to-face (traditional) methods and online methods. Most of the online material draws on Salmon’s previous publications, however this book is a good tie together of the theory that lecturers will already be familiar with and the theories relating to technology-enhanced learning.

Teaching for Quality Learning at University

Teaching for Quality Learning at University by John Biggs and Cathering Tang, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0335221264. The handbook for anyone wanting to understand and put into practice ‘constructive alignment’ principles – i.e. a decent module structure that has learning activities and assessments designed to address specified and meaning learning outcomes.

Student Learning

Student Learning: Research in Education and Cognitive Psychology edited by John T. E. Richardson, Michael W. Eysenck and David Warren Piper, 1987. ISBN-10: 0335156010.  This book is an analysis of learning from a cognitive perspective, but tempered by the frequent criticisms of a scientific method applied to educational environments. As such it offers a way to interpret learning based on a range of theories and research ideas.

The Lecturer’s Toolkit

The Lecturers Toolkit by Phil Race, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0415403825. This book is a great handbook for higher education tutors and academic support alike. Race challenges some of the traditional teaching methods and provides plenty of case studies and scenarios to consider.

Teaching Information Literacy for Inquiry-based Learning

Teaching Information Literacy for Inquiry-Based Learning: A Guide to Teaching and Learning E-literacy (Chandos Information Professional) by Mark Hepworth and Geoff Walton, 2009. ISBN-13: 978-1843344414. Although a costly book, you can appreciate the time and research that has gone into it. Written in an academic style, as opposed to a handbook, this publication pulls together various teaching and learning theories in the context of academic literacy. As such, it is a very worthwhile book for library staff, academic support and skills tutors. I was lucky enough to borrow a Library copy, but would have preferred to keep hold of it for a longer period and really get to grips with the content.

E-learning in the 21st Century

E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice by D Randy Garrison, 2010. ISBN-13: 978-0415885836. This is the updated release of the 2003 book, which I may add my former manager had a copy of on her bookshelf. It’s not a how-to or packed with case studies, but looks at understanding the impact of technology and approaches to it. An academic read.

What’s the Use of Lectures?

What’s the Use of Lectures? by Donald Bligh, 1998. ISBN-10: 187151679X. Lectures, for better or for worse, form the cornerstone of higher education with class sizes in the hundreds. I haven’t yet explored this book in detail but it is widely regarded as essential reading for higher education teaching staff. It explores the rationale for lectures, but more importantly how to make them effective learning experiences rather than just a passive activity.

Situated Learning

Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, 2002. ISBN-10: 0521423740. The concept of situated learning underpins the communities of practice model. Likes the Gagne book below, a seminal work that every LT should have to hand.

The Conditions of Learning

The Conditions of Learning by Robert M. Gagne, 1970. ISBN-10: 0039100693. A seminal work that explores different approaches to learning. This book is useful to have in order just to be able to quote from a often cited source those ideas that have become commonplace!

A Guide To Learning Independently

A Guide To Learning Independently by Lorraine Marshall and Frances Rowland, 1998. ISBN-10: 0335203663. Whilst this book is written for students, it is worth considering the expectations that we have of higher education learners and how these may be different from other learning environments. If you have been entrenched in the institution for some time, it’s worthwhile reminding yourself of the challenges students face as they enter higher education so that you can design and structure learning and skills support as an incremental and integrated part of the programme.


Don’t Make Me Think

Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug, 2005. ISBN-13: 978-0321344755. I have it, I’ve read it (mainly over lunch-breaks) and I agree with pretty much everything inside it. If ever there was a book to prepare the lowly usability champion for taking on the decision-makers, this would be it. It’s not going to be a thorough academic analysis of usability, and neither is it going to train you in everything to improve your site. However this book will support any pre-existing assertions you have if you are a usability champion in that yes, you are doing the right thing. If you don’t know what usability is, or believe that making a site look pretty is the most important thing, then this book would be a good introduction for you to enter the real world. One thing to watch out for is the slightly overly-metaphorical language, but you learn to overlook it and interpret it after a chapter or two.

Designing Web Usability

Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity by Jakob Nielsen, 2000. ISBN-13: 978-1562058104. This book is way past is use-by date. It is still highly regarded as one of the first major reviews and ‘bibles’ of web usability. However, though a lot of the theory is still relevant to the modern web developer, it’s hard to weed it out from the out of date predictions and assumptions. This book is still good in terms of a historical perspective, but the entire web community is waiting for a new edition. In the mean time, go to Nielsen’s website: Nielsen has co-authored two further books: Prioritizing Web Usability (2006) and Eyetracking Web Usability (Voices That Matter) (2009).

Web development

.NET magazine

When I was a web developer, this magazine was essential for keeping up to date on the latest technologies, designs and site management approaches. Anyone who works regularly in web marketing or web development should be a subscriber.

The Web Designer’s Idea Book

The Web Designer’s Idea Book, Volume 2: More of the Best Themes, Trends and Styles in Website Design by Patrick McNeil, 2010. ISBN-13: 978-1600619724. The problem with design books is that they date quickly, which is why I was in the need to keep up with trends I still subscribed to .NET magazine and enjoy flicking through the latest gallery of sites. Though I haven’t yet purchased this book, taking a ‘look inside’ shows how design elements have been drawn out and highlighted in terms of usability and aesthetics. These elements can then of course be used by web developers in their own sites, and improved upon. I’m looking forward to getting this book soon.

The Design of Sites

The Design of Sites: Patterns for Creating Winning Websites by Douglas K van Duyne, James A Landay and Jason I Hong, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0131345553. An old book now in terms of design, using screenshots from a couple of years prior, however having borrowed a copy from the University Library, I wish I had bought it. It really is a comprehensive encyclopeadia-cum-bible of fundamental design principles and worthy of a place on the bookshelf.

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