Interactive eBook platform design for the CORE Project

The CORE Project funded by INET (Institute for New Economic Thinking, founded by George Soros) started with a vision to develop and pilot both new content and new ways of teaching.

CORE (Curriculum Open-access Resources for Economics) project is a bold move to completely overhaul the way Economics is taught today, by making it more practical and versatile to real life situations. We helped CORE to re-define the method of teaching Economics to undergraduates across the world.

DESIGN INTERVENTION

We collaborated with CORE from the very beginning of the open source Economics eBook initiative. We started from ideating about a “modern classroom equipped with an eBook”, and went on conceptualizing innovative ideas that can be incorporated during teaching & studying. Our eBook design and publication efforts successfully culminated in publishing an extensively written eBook that is currently being used by over 50,000 Economic undergraduate students in various regions of the world.

Open Source Nature of the Project

CORE’s ideology is to create an open source eBook that could be used by students without any monetary or copyright restrictions, and it also will open up doors for the teachers around different cultural settings to edit necessary instances in the book.

In 2013, there was no open source eBook publishing platform existed, so we built an in-house eBook Publisher and an eBook Viewer.

Pilot eBooks

A pilot eBook with one chapter on Macro Economics was published using our own eBook publishing platform for a fund-raising pitch. The pilot units were showcased to the world in November 2013, in an event happened at Her Majesty’s Treasury in London. It was lauded by the likes of Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times; and Andy Haldane, director at Bank of England.

 

The event attracted academics, professional economists, the press & economics students. Realizing the potential and the game-changing effect of this worldwide initiative,
22 contributors joined hands to write the first book. Around the same time, CORE developed an arrangement with a major eBook publishing platform – Inkling, and the eBook authoring platform, Habitat.

Pilot eBook Release Event

The first complete eBook : “The Economy”

Listed down are some important facets of user experience that we poured into the eBook. We paid attention to fine details to design an impactful experience for both teachers and students.

Information Design

Economics curriculum, naturally has a lot of supporting graphs, for students to understand the concepts with ease. We devised visual standards for different graph types. All graphs were designed to be interactive, thereby fully leveraging the digital platform. Some interesting information design decisions we made are given below,

A Circle is not a Rectangle!

This is an insight one can only get when working closely with economists. The unnecessary area exaggeration (dual parameters of radius and circumference) associated with Pie charts is always undesirable and frowned upon by Economists. Bar charts, instead, let the students to focus on the economic data without any other associations.

Responsive Design

The reading experience ought to be uniform, regardless of the device being used to study. We carefully crafted each graph to be as legible as possible and also appear natural on different size of digital screens.

Einstein, Leibniz and much more…

The reading experience ought to be uniform, regardless of the device being used to study. We carefully crafted each graph to be as legible as possible and also appear natural on different size of digital screens.

Where There is a Will, There is a Way

Inkling’s Habitat comes with many opportunities and limitations. It has a feature called a slideline, where we can display a set of images in a certain order to explain a concept. So the student could look at the figures broken down into steps and also interact with a slider to slide through the steps to create a sort of animation. This was a great tool, like a flicker book. But the flow of information was a bit jarring. The student would read about the figure, see the figure in the middle, continue reading and once done would open the slideline and understand the figure step by step. We really wanted students to be able to refer to the figure right at points where it was talked about in the book.

 

After many attempts to solve this, we found a way to use the pop-up mechanism in Inkling, ideally for definitions, to pop-up and show figures. Meaning the figures could be placed inline, in the form of linked pop-ups (click) at points where it would be helpful to refer to them. The small size of these popups, made us create custom images that would focus only one the part of the figure being talked about in the preceding text. The steps of understanding became much more thorough because of this.

Achieved

On 5th September 2014, the book titled “The Economy” was launched as Beta. The ebook which forms a new curriculum for Introductory Economics for UG students. The book was tested with students from universities across London, Sydney, Paris, Budapest, and Bengaluru.

 

Today, three editions of the book have been published, with recommendations and feedback pouring in from students and teachers all over the world. The book has been translated in French and Italian, and has been downloaded by over 50,000 students in universities from different parts of the world.

The Final Book Release Event

University of Cape Town, South Africa

The University of Cape Town in South Africa uses the CORE book for its undergraduate Economics programme.

University College London, United Kingdom

The University College London in United Kingdom uses the CORE book for its Economics programme too.

Testimonials

“The textbook, available online and on download, had interactive features such as step by step diagrams and video links that proved immensely helpful and made the content much more understandable and interesting.”


Haleema
Economics and Political Science
Lahore University of Management Sciences

 

Twist Open helped launch the CORE project, which is now changing the way economics is taught around the world with free online course material (www.core-econ.org). In the very first pilots for an online ebook presented at Her Majesty’s Treasury in London in 2013, the style and design quality grabbed attention. Bringing new ways of visualising data and helping us translate complex concepts into memorable graphics has set a new standard in economics educational publishing. The distinctive CORE look and feel was created by the team at Twist Open. They knew much better than we did what it was we were looking for.


Wendy Carlin
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Professor of Economics,
University College London
Director, CORE Economics Education

Media Coverage for the Project

This project was widely covered by many renowned international media. You can check the list here http://www.core-econ.org/press/