How using digital workbooks can increase student engagement and help institutions go green

How to move from printed to digital workbooks rich with interactive content such as audio, video and quizzes, to improve online learning outcomes while boosting sustainability


17 Mar 2022
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Advice on moving from printed to digital teaching materials to improve student engagement and sustainability

Created in partnership with

Created in partnership with

Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University 

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Roughly 13,670 students study foreign languages at our Sino-British university, which means that vast amounts of printing are required. For just one module of 800 students, an average of 24,000 pages are printed per week, which equates to 0.12 tonnes of paper, or almost three trees. One tonne of paper, roughly 200,000 sheets, requires about 24 trees.

Waste paper is often discarded in classrooms, and Microsoft Word-based worksheets tend not to be particularly engaging, especially during online teaching periods. Moreover, interactive questions, audio and video can’t be included in printed materials.

HTML 5 packages (H5P) provide a new way to create rich interactive content within learning management systems such as Moodle, Canvas and Blackboard. Content types include multiple-choice questions, gap fills, drag and drop, interactive video, parallax presentations and many more. An interactive book allows many of the content types to be embedded in a comprehensive browser-based workbook.

As part of our efforts to go green at the university, we converted our printed classroom worksheets into H5P-powered digital workbooks. After introducing H5P workbooks, about 288,000 pages were saved in one semester of our current module offered to some 800 students. This practice has since been shared across the School of Languages and then further promoted through university-wide training.

Case study: how we introduced H5P content into our curriculum

Our language course for students of advanced technology serves about 800 undergraduates. To make our online classes more visually appealing and interactive, we transformed the weekly student workbooks and self-study materials from Microsoft Word to H5P content.

Benefits of H5P content to students and teachers:

  • Students can use any device
  • Students receive immediate feedback after completing each activity and can retry if their answers are wrong
  • Instructors can monitor attempts, duration of engagement and quiz scores
  • The project allows us to monitor student engagement during online and on-site seminars more accurately
  • It provides a more aesthetically pleasing and interactive classroom experience for students

Worksheet tasks are organised into pages containing a range of H5P content types, and the “check” function allows students to verify their answers straight away.

These are the types of content we used:

The H5P text, image and table content types are appropriate for converting open-ended questions and instructional text from Word.

The iframe embedder allows audio and video to be directly embedded into the digital workbook. Students watch and listen with headphones and then answer the follow-up questions.

We used the fill-in-the-blanks and multiple-choice content types to create short-answer questions to test specific grammar points.

For variety, we also presented multiple-choice questions using the drag text content type.

The open-ended essay question type sets a minimum and maximum number of characters, and it matches responses to a selection of user-defined keywords. In our example, students were asked to summarise a film in five sentences.

On the final page, students see a “summary and submit” dashboard, where they can review their attempts at each question before submitting.

We created a short demonstration video to show one example of an H5P interactive workbook design: an embedded video; different question formats; students’ ability to check their answers; and the dashboard.

How to implement H5P interactive workbooks

H5P content can either be embedded as HTML or installed via an LMS plugin. Click here for a test drive!

Learn about H5P and how it works. You can explore the H5P interactive content samples or ask the virtual learning environment (VLE) experts and educational technologists at your institution for an explanation or assistance.

Install the H5P plugin in your LMS (Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard or WordPress, for example). It can also be directly embedded in any independent website.

Seek professional guidance from both H5P experts and course designers to help decide which workbook content and activities are suitable for adaptation.

Identify the types of questions that are suitable for conversion into H5P workbooks; these might include true or false, drag and drop, fill in the blanks, multiple choice, short answer and others.

Create a questionnaire to get student feedback on the online workbooks. Reflect and improve on your interactive curriculum.

Depending on the team size for your course, you could build it alone or assign a team to reduce the workload. Make it happen!

Challenges and solutions

A small number of students failed to submit their H5P workbook at the end of the class, so teachers couldn’t track their progress.

To remedy this, we created a short video to show students how to view the summary page and hand in their work by clicking “submit report” after they completed the activities. It’s also helpful to give students general feedback on their performance to encourage them to submit. For students who are clearly falling behind or not engaging, we encouraged peer support, and provided more guidance during classes or in teachers’ office hours.

Some question types, such as filling in a table or those with a broad range of potential responses, can’t easily be converted into H5P. In these cases, consider presenting the questions via the text content type and allowing students time to discuss their answers in groups or online breakout rooms. We still provide the original Word files, so students can write longer answers when necessary.

Yan Wei is head of division for advanced technology and English for academic purposes (EAP), module convener and language lecturer at the English Language Centre, and Paul Tuck is lecturer and educational developer at the Academy of Future Education, both at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University.

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