Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Personal eBook for Learning (PeBL)

PeBL banner artwork

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 eBooks capabilities are little more than print shown in an e-reader. Basic eBooks lack the ability to interwork with or control other components of the larger learning ecosystem or learning experience. Additionally, they 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.

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 incorporate the capability to collaborate with other PeBL users to optimize learning.

About the Project

The PeBL project is intended to create an open specification (and ultimately an open standard) for a new eBook platform, and to produce a fully functional eBook authoring and distribution capability hosted in a cloud environment. To realize this untapped potential of eBooks, the ADL Initiative is developing a specification that enables new capabilities in eBooks while maintaining the advantages of the familiar “book” format.

Products being developed from this project 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 also been developed to support user-management and access control, eBook management, instructor administration (e.g., class assignment and performance visualization), and to manage global changes to an organization’s bookstore.

PeBL is designed to support the ADL Initiative’s efforts to advance the Total Learning Architecture (TLA), a set of internet and software specifications being developed to enable next-generation personalized, data-driven, and lifelong technology-enabled learning. PeBL supports the next iteration of the popular EPUB3 specification, integrating xAPI to track and analyze user metrics within eBooks. By supplementing the EPUB3 format with TLA-compliant extensions, PeBL will allow eBooks to 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 tested the feasibility and stability of the platform. Held at Quantico, Virginia, participants included instructional designers, instructors, and other stakeholders who had a vested interest in PeBL being classroom-ready. Each Command received iPads and user accounts to test and experiment with PeBL, independently, and with each other. Valuable feedback was received which 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 the PeBL content versus static eBook content. The results of the test empirically showed higher levels of engagement and greater overall learning outcomes for PeBL users.

In 2019, the ADL Initiative partnered with the Office of Personnel Management USALearning to mature the PeBL application, first within the sandbox environment, and then within the ADL Initiative’s Learning Warehouse portal. The effort focused on hardening the PeBL technologies and proving its scalability to a larger enterprise system. 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 of tablets, phones, and PC operating systems.



Project Details

Period of Performance





United States Marine Corps
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers