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Human Physiology Students’ Perceptions of etextbooks: Towards Open Access as an Alternative to Traditional Textbooks

Science experts across the globe are requesting educators to teach science in authentic and inquiry-driven ways to prepare graduates to be scientifically literate citizens. Shifting from traditional teacher-centred approaches to models of authentic learning requires new and innovative resources. In an inquiry-driven human physiology curriculum an etextbook, How to Do Science: a guide to researching human physiology, was developed as an alternative to a traditional textbook and is an example of how professionally designed electronic textbooks can support new approaches to learning. While the advantages of OER have been documented internationally, there is little empirical evidence to indicate benefits of open etextbooks for students in Australia. This study found a majority of students prefer etextbooks compared to hardcopy textbooks, most often due to accessibility, ease of use and convenience. Regarding How to Do Science specifically, a majority of students rated accessibility, attractiveness, ease of navigation, and the quality of the content as high or very high. Students reported that the etextbook contributed most to their learning through assisting in completion of authentic scientific assessment tasks. The etextbook was designed for local use, however, the release as an OER has meant wider dissemination with more impact. We encourage educators to incorporate OERs into their practice.


The development of this etextbook was supported by La Trobe University Digital Learning Strategy Innovation grants.


Publication Date



International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education





Article Number



14p. (p. 38-51)


University of Sydney



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The Author reserves all moral rights over the deposited text and must be credited if any re-use occurs. Documents deposited in OPAL are the Open Access versions of outputs published elsewhere. Changes resulting from the publishing process may therefore not be reflected in this document. The final published version may be obtained via the publisher’s DOI. Please note that additional copyright and access restrictions may apply to the published version.

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