What’s the Difference Between a Digital Learning Platform, Ebook & Etext?


As educators, we hear a lot of terms in our digital day-to-day world, and it can be easy to confuse them because we don’t have a good understanding of what they mean. Terms like digital learning platform, online learning environment, learning management system, ebook, etext, and more often get used interchangeably, making it difficult to know what type of technology you’re actually working with and how to accurately assess what’s best for your school.

What is a digital learning platform?

A digital learning platform is an online software that structures and organizes information to make it easily accessible for students, teachers, and parents. The learning material can be in the form of courses, videos, electronic documents, slide decks, ebooks, and more. This material can be accessed anytime from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection and an electronic device such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Digital learning platforms deliver learning experiences that enable students to actively engage with educational content.

Examples of common digital learning platforms in schools:

  • ConnectEd
  • HMH Ed
  • IXL
  • Math Nation
  • McGraw Hill
  • MyMathLab
  • Sapling Plus
  • VHL Central

What is an ebook?

An ebook, short for electronic book, is a book available in digital form. When a physical copy of a book is converted to the digital format of an ebook it can be accessed and read on any digital device, such as a computer, phone, tablet, or e-reader.

Ebooks have evolved from being just an electronic version of a printed book to a unique piece of digital content that can be easily created by anyone with basic digital knowledge and access to a computer.

What is etext?

Etext, short for electronic text, is a general term used for any type of document that is read in digital form. It’s online, interactive text that allows you to hear the whole text read aloud and see words highlighted as they’re read. Usually, this type of document doesn’t contain images.

What’s the difference between ebooks and etext?

The easiest way to think about ebooks versus etext is this: ebooks contain etext which provides the ability for:

  • Notes and Highlights–Opportunities to make notes and highlight content right in the ebook along with additional interactive features like annotations, pen tools and page zoom.
  • Search Option – The search tool is always a favorite as it helps avoid having to turn page after page to find that elusive topic or phrase. Pages and chapters can be bookmarked easily, and the online dictionary can help students quickly find the meaning of words.
  • Text to Speech– You can change the voice, the speed, and even how it sounds. For example, if you’re from the south, you can use a Southern accent so that people can feel more comfortable with reading and understanding what is being read to them. You can slow the speed of speech down or speed it up.

Ebooks in schools

A common question people ask is, “what does an ebook have that a printed book doesn’t?

Ebooks cost a lot less than printed textbooks to update. Ebooks allows for the textbooks in classrooms to be kept up to date on an ongoing basis, rather than every 3 to 5 years. This is much more cost-effective for schools who can’t always afford to replace textbooks that often.

Well-designed ebooks help students be more actively engaged in their learning. Ebooks incorporate emerging technology – such as etext – that gives them the ability to include embedded videos, built in assessments, learner analytics and other tools.

Ebooks will continue to evolve. For example, since ebooks may not have the same pagination as printed textbooks, publishers have now moved away from page numbers altogether and use chapter and section titles as navigation guides. This allows teachers and students to be on the same page (both literally and figuratively!) resulting in a better learning and teaching experience.

Now that you know the basic difference between digital options, if you’re considering adding ebooks to your school, you may be asking common questions about ebook implementation: Is this option good? Will it work? Have you heard of this? At EdTech, we can help guide you through the process to find the right resources for your school. Start the conversation with us by requesting a free demo!

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EdTech Solutions leverages education technology to improve learning by making it easy and simple for schools and students to manage and access individualized digital content on any device. EdTech’s cutting-edge approach to schoolwide ebook implementation and our innovative online platform and tools give school administrators and teachers the controls they need while providing students and parents with access to all their content on one easy-to-use platform with a single login, in most cases.

When you work with us, we create a personalized bookstore for your school where students can access and purchase their ebooks and textbooks on Shelfit.com. We also help publishers make their content available digitally to students on our robust multi-publisher ebook reader platform. We strongly believe that knowledge and good education should be available to all, and we are committed to developing and providing the online learning tools and modern services that make it possible.