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Personal eBook for Learning (PeBL)

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The PeBL project expands the functionality of eBooks by making them more interactive, adaptive, and capable of supporting social learning in connected, immersive, and personalized ways.

The Challenge

Current eBook capabilities lack the ability to interwork with or control other components of larger learning ecosystems or learning experiences they are designed to support. Additionally, eBooks provide limited adaptivity, content brokering, and personalization opportunities. As a mobile connected platform, eBooks have the unrealized potential to support more pedagogical approaches than traditional books, including experiential, problem-based, dynamic, and social learning techniques.

The Solution

PeBL is an open-source eBook platform that merges key aspects of eLearning, mobile device technologies, and eBook technologies. This advanced eBook solution provides functionality that adapts content in response to learner needs in real time. PeBL eBooks can track learner behavior using performance data and while doing so, use that capability to collaborate with other PeBL users to optimize learning.

About the Project

The ADL Initiative PeBL project aims to create an open specification (and ultimately an open IEEE standard) for a new more-capable eBook platform, in addition to a fully functional eBook authoring and distribution capability hosted in a cloud environment.

PeBL capabilities include a personalized learning environment with non-linear pathways, a comment annotation tool, web-based immersive media, and real-time social media forums. Administrative tools have been developed to not only to support user-management and access control, eBook management, and instructor administration (e.g., class assignment and performance visualization), but to also help manage global changes to an organization’s bookstore.

PeBL is consistent with the ADL Initiative’s development of the Total Learning Architecture (TLA), a set of internet and software specifications that enable next-generation personalized, data-driven, and lifelong technology-enabled learning. PeBL supports the next iteration of the popular EPUB3 specification, which integrates xAPI to track and analyze user metrics within eBooks. By supplementing the EPUB3 format with TLA-compliant extensions, PeBL eBooks can communicate with other systems in live, virtual, simulated, and constructive environments, essentially allowing them to serve as a competency-based training environment.

In January 2018, a PeBL evaluation among DoD users tested the feasibility and stability of the platform. Held at Quantico, Virginia, participants consisted of instructional designers, instructors, and other stakeholders who have a vested interest in PeBL being classroom-ready. Participants received iPads and user accounts to test and experiment with PeBL, independently and with each other. Feedback from this evaluation aided in the development of PeBL authoring tools.

In November 2019, a usability study at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, was conducted to gather empirical evidence on the utility and engagement of PeBL content versus static eBook content. Results showed higher levels of engagement and greater overall learning outcomes for PeBL users.

Additionally, in 2019, the ADL Initiative partnered with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) USALearning program to mature the PeBL application, first within a sandbox environment, and then within the ADL Initiative’s Learning Technology Warehouse portal. This effort focused on hardening PeBL technologies and proving its scalability to larger enterprise systems. This included the development of server-based components such as individual/shared libraries (bookshelves), and an enterprise bookstore where DoD learners and instructors can find and access different eBooks. USALearning is also facilitating the development of third-party authoring tools to create interactive eBooks that use commonly available features associated with tablets, phones, and PC operating systems.

In 2020, ADL Initiative held a workshop with U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Training and Education Command (TECOM) to support their adoption of PeBL eBooks as an educational tool. USMC staff received training to independently create PeBL eBook content, producing an enhanced version of the Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 7 Learning (MCDP 7). In September 2020, the PeBL MCDP 7 was released to 180,000 Marines. Other PeBL publications are expected to follow for USMC and other DoD users.



Project Details

Period of Performance





Defense Acquisition University
Naval Air Warfare Center
United States Marine Corps
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Learning Technology Warehouse – PeBL page
(Please note: Setting up an account is required to access PeBL information on the LTW portal)