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Abstract

New opportunities and challenges of the digital age are creating a paradigm shift in research, teaching and learning. As a result, the traditional education model based on the printed book, is radically being transformed. There is now an opportunity to convert the existing “educational factories” into future “educational laboratories”, by exploiting constructivist methodologies. For maximum impact, it is imperative that the rapidly evolving digital technologies, such as e-Books enable academic research and education in a constructivist way. In order to evaluate the digital needs of academia, the definition of digital natives and digital immigrants have been expanded to introduce the concepts of e-Citizen, digital appetite and multi-dimensional e-Citizen framework. It is expected that e-Citizens with higher digital appetite within the e-Citizen framework will embrace e-Books more readily. e-books are not just books as information repositories in electronic form, but are actually multi-functional learning objects. In the future, e-Books on the web will become a powerful electronic platform to conduct collaborative research and impart education. The initiatives which were taken to embed e-Books in the teaching curriculum of two post graduate units arose, as a constructivist approach was taken, so that students could create their own knowledge during the learning process. For this purpose, e-Books were either included in the publisher’s companion website containing interactive e-resources or they were downloadable on computers. A survey was undertaken to investigate the acceptance and usability levels of the embedded e-Books in these post-graduate programs. As expected, the digital natives embraced it enthusiastically using its powerful features and have been keen to adapt the new advancements. In contrast, digital immigrants appreciated the e-Book capabilities, but still preferred the printed book. The result from this survey and the world-wide research which has been conducted, shows that although the uptake of e-Books has been initially slow, but they are rapidly gaining popularity. Academia is already harnessing the power of e-book for its random access, portability, replication, book-marking, highlighting and many other multi-faceted capabilities. The future of e-Books is even more promising for researchers, teachers and students to create real-time knowledge with advanced collaborative and real-time technologies, such as wiki-books and mobiles. It is a constructivist educator’s dream to have electronic tools where knowledge can effectively and efficiently be extracted, mixed and customised for an individual or collaborative team. As a result, integration in research, teaching and learning can be conducted anytime and anywhere. An on-going study will be implemented to investigate and monitor the usability of e-Books in some post-graduate and under-graduate programs, especially using mobile platforms, such as i-Pads.

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