How to Launch Online Courses by Importing EPUB3 Assets (Part I)

April 28, 2014
by Aditya Agarkar

ePubEPUB (short for electronic publication) is a free and open eBook standard created by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF).

EPUB3, the third installment of the content revolutionizing standard, is the most advanced eBook format available. Based on the latest web standards—like HTML5, CSS3, and the Open Web Platform—it can be used to render any modern website or online content.

After discovering EPUB3 a little more, we’ll show you how Snapwiz’s platform enables you to seamlessly launch an online course by importing EPUB assets.

What is EPUB3?

According to the IDPF: “EPUB defines a means of representing, packaging and encoding structured and semantically enhanced Web content—including HTML5, CSS, SVG, images, and other resources—for distribution in a single-file format.”

Supporting fixed-layout content, EPUB3 can be used by publishers (and entertainment creators) to convert textbook content into an eBook format. This allows learners to read the EPUB content using reader software on desktops, or across devices such as the Amazon Kindle. Overall, EPUB3 was designed with the expectation that it would be utilized for a broad range of content: ranging from books and magazines to education, professional, and scientific publications.

Simply put, it’s the new global standard for eBooks with four distinct features

  • Rich Media & Interactivity
  • Global Language Support
  • Accessibility Features
  • Styling & Layout

EPUB3 also have some improvements that set it apart from EPUB2

  • Additional support for video, audio, and interactive elements like quizzes and self-assessments.
  • Streamlined table of contents with more granular features for navigating tables, graphics, and other book contents.
  • Cleaner viewing options of footnotes, citations, and references.
  • Support for MathML (formulas based in text rather than picture).

*Learn more: EPUB3 Overview & EPUB3 Samples.

Why Import EPUB3 Assets into the Snapwiz Platform?

While EPUB3 has a rich set of digital assets—eBooks inherently lack crucial features necessary for creating comprehensive, collaborative, and personalized online courses. Why is this?

There’s a list of essential features that are necessary for creating personalized learning spaces that eBooks simply don’t encompass. For example, without adaptive learning algorithms (and machine learning) students won’t experience personalized learning pathways that help them progress through content material and assessments. This is because the adaptive algorithms map relative to expected adaptive behavior—delivering unique content to unique learners based upon performance on tests, and overall activity, within the platform.

You’ll also encounter a lack of social learning features; without this, students can’t engage with their peers or the instructor around essential course content. Moreover, instructors won’t have access to skill proficiency reports, skill profiles, and other analytical insights that are necessary for crafting personalized learning.  

How the actors in an online learning environment interact and engage with an online course

Online Learning Environment

The benefit of launching an online course using Snapwiz is multifold and diverse:

  • Publishers can utilize our platform to author and publish courses.
  • Administrators can assign courses and classes—facilitating interactions between instructors and learners.
  • Instructors can create interactive, collaborative, and adaptive assessments with easy-to-use adaptive eConcept widgets.
  • Students can see their learning processes contextualized in a highly personalized and collaborative learning experience revolving around course content.

EPUB to Online Courses

Publishers of academic textbooks spend a considerable amount of time and effort transforming their passive EPUB content into online courses. Converting an EPUB to an online course involves additional effort because the content needs to be organized into a course hierarchy involving one or many learning paths.

In addition, the course content needs to have semantic tagging for a personalized course delivery. (The tagging of course content is a labor-intensive task involving substantial time investments by experts). The management system for handling EPUB3 and online courses is also different—leading to the duplication of content and/or syncing challenges when the same content is edited in two different systems, possibly by multiple authors.

Importing EPUB3 directly into the Snapwiz course platform is a quick and efficient way to craft online courses with EPUB3 content elements.

The Snapwiz platform allows for the direct import of EPUB content into any course. The EPUB import feature allows a publisher to use a single system to manage content that can be used for eTextbooks in EPUB format and for online courses. In order to enable the seamless import of EPUB3 into Snapwiz platform, extension elements are added to the standard EPUB—storing additional data that is needed for an online course.


Features and data requirements for eBook and an Online Course

Features & Data Requirement

A quick look at the details…

The EPUB extension data is kept in the Snapwiz compliant spec, storing meta-data for any element in the EPUB document. The EPUB extension can also store any supplementary learning resources such as audio, video, or other interactive assets like HTML5 animations, HTML5 applications, assessments, discussion objects, etc.

Overall, the EPUB import allows a publisher to reuse EPUB content and EPUB styling in the online course. It also ensures the accuracy of digital assets located within the course hierarchy, and the semantic data associated with them in the course database.

Another impressive EPUB import feature offers powerful version control capabilities. During the import process, the EPUB content and course content are compared and analyzed side-by-side using a unique identifier; if there is any update, the EPUB content is copied to the course content.

This version control capability allows textbook publishers to use the EPUB creation software like Adobe In-design. This is because it behaves like a master content system for subsequent edits—ensuring that online courses, including the content and layout, are always in sync with the latest copy of the EPUB.

Snapwiz EPUB Extension Spec Overview

  • The Snapwiz EPUB extension spec defines the metadata for any element in the EPUB document. The metadata is stored as JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) format in the “data-text” attribute of the EPUB element.
  • Each EPUB element is associated with a universally unique identification (UUID) that associates the EPUB element with the course data for future course revisions.
  • The Snapwiz EPUB extension spec also stores additional metadata such as element type, version, association of EPUB element with course hierarchy, and any other semantic tagging data associated with the EPUB element.

To be Continued…

In the next post, we’ll cover how the import process works, and the overall benefits of doing an EPUB import into the Snapwiz platform.

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