Welcome to our blog


December 10, 2020 • 1 minute read
By: Saskia Watts

As 2020 comes to an end, we want to recognize your continued hard work and adaptability in responding to the dramatic changes in education.

VitalSource Insights
Whitepapers, infographics, case studies, and more
VitalSource webinars and conferences
Blog > Change one thing – navigating within your eTextbook: Teach Online Toolkit 'Refresher'

October, 22, 2020 . 4 minute read

Change one thing – navigating within your eTextbook: Teach Online Toolkit 'Refresher'

INTL_blogimages_remote teaching


Using new tech can be stressful, whether it's getting used to a new mobile phone or incorporating online tools into your teaching. One key tip is to be prepared by getting hands-on experience. This will help you get comfortable with the technology you are using, making you more confident, and your teaching more engaging.

Use this walk-through to explore your VitalSource eTextbook. This can help you see how to incorporate the functionality to support your learning objectives. If you already have access to a VitalSource eTextbook through your institution, open it up and try out the activities suggested. If you don't have access to an eTextbook, create a Bookshelf account and add this free title to your account.

Here are 5 tools in Bookshelf to get familiar with, to propel both your teaching and your student’s learning:

1. Notes and highlights

As a lecturer you can add notes and highlights, and share these with your students. This can add value for them by making the content more relevant to your course. You can tailor your approach to the needs of your students – for example, where students need support with complex material, you can highlight the key passages, or add an explanation. For higher level students you may also want to pose questions or direct them to additional material.

How to make a highlight:

Bookshelf Highlighters INTL


How to add a note:

To add a note to a highlight, double-click on the highlight with the cursor of your mouse and type the note into the text field. Your note will be autosaved as you type, and you can view your note by clicking on the highlight.

How to add a note to a highlight in Bookshelf

How to share notes and highlights:

You can manage your sharing options via the Tools dropdown in the Library view.

To allow others to follow your public notes and highlights, copy your unique link in the My Followers tab. Should you wish to remove someone from your followers, you can block them at any time.

using_and_sharing_notes_and_highlights_9.png using_and_sharing_notes_and_highlights_10.png

How you could integrate this functionality in your online teaching?

2. Flashcards

You can also use your eTextbook to make learning more active and increase student engagement. In addition to notes and highlights, VitalSource Bookshelf includes the Flashcards feature. You can use Flashcards to prepare for a lecture or presentation, lead a group study session with students, and as a study guide assignment for students.

Flashcards have been designed to be easy to use, even if you have little experience with education technology. And your students see you as the expert, so not only will you enrich your lectures, but you'll also encourage them to try out the feature for themselves.

Students are also able to create their own flashcards to help them get to grips with core principles, support self-study and revision. When a deck is complete and your students are ready to study, they can quiz themselves using 'Play Flashcards'.

How to create flashcards: 

To begin creating a flashcard from within a textbook, click the Flashcards icon, then click the plus sign in the top right.

Flashcards in Bookshelf

In the field provided, give your deck a name, then click Save.

Image of open field for entering flashcard text.

You can create flashcards from the highlighted text in a book—even highlights created by Bookshelf users you follow.

As you highlight text, the menu below will appear. Click Create Flashcard, then New Deck, give the deck a name, and click Save.

Would the use of flashcards enhance your online teaching?

3. Accessibility controls

People consume content in different ways. eTextbooks allow you and your students to personalise your experience in a way that print textbooks can't. You can vary the font size, move away from black text on white paper and there are read aloud capabilities. These make learning more comfortable for everyone, but are particularly important for students with disabilities or special educational needs. A 2018 case study with BPP University found that students with a visual, hearing, or other cognitive disability were more likely to report that some eTextbook features, such as the ability to magnify text, had a positive impact on their learning compared to their peers (94% versus 87%). It’s these positive impacts that truly sets eTextbooks a step above their print equivalent.

Content controls can be found to the right of the scrubber bar at the bottom within your eTextbooks in Bookshelf Online, or at the top right on your Bookshelf app, and allow users to personalise their reading experience depending on their accessibility needs. With Bookshelf's content controls, you can:

  • Choose from four different text sizes

  • Select from various fonts available, including OpenDyslexic

  • Easily alter the colour of their screen by selecting night mode

  • Choose from three different margin sizes

  • Pick from three line height optionsContent controls in Bookshelf

How many of your students could benefit from the accessibility features of Bookshelf?


4. Global search

Instructors can search their digital library in Bookshelf to create lesson plans and study guides for students. Search for key topics you'll be covering in your lectures to understand which titles available to your students contain the most important information for each learning objective. This way, you are able to set relevant weekly readings, and field questions from students who require further information about specific subject matters. You can also use this to find sections of content to add supplementary notes and highlights to really deepen students' understanding.

Students are also able to search their digital library to do research, and find resources to supplement primary course materials.

How to search your Bookshelf library:

From the homepage, the Search feature can be activated by clicking on the magnifying glass icon next to the Tools menu. To search for an exact phrase, make sure that you place quotation marks around the words within the phrase.

Searching in Bookshelf


How can searching your entire library improve your lesson plans?

5. Offline access

During times of uncertainty such as this, and with many students unable to make it on to campus, it is important for learning materials to be accessible no matter the situation. Whether it be a lack of robust wi-fi, or the need to move learning environments, with Bookshelf, content can be accessed offline, anytime, anywhere, by downloading our mobile and/or desktop apps – last pages read, bookmarks, and annotations are also automatically synced across all devices!

How to download your content on a mobile device:

Download the Bookshelf App INTL


Would offline access ease your students' worries around accessing their learning materials?

Now you have the tools to get the most out of you eTextbook, you should make sure your students do too. VitalSource can provide lots of resources to send to your students – a wealth of information can be found on our Success Portal, which is updated regularly. If you don't have access to an eTextbook, create a Bookshelf account and add this free title to your account, to get comfortable with the study tools available.

How to get started with Bookshelf:


Getting Started w Bookshelf INTL



Subscribe to the blog