In the second part of our series on Inkling, the interactive textbook developer, iMedicalApps takes a closer look at some of the features that make Inkling unique.

The first part of our series focused on Inkling as a company with their aim to revolutionize learning by improving content delivery. By January 2012, they aim to offer over 30 interactive textbooks in a range of modalities for preclinical medical students. It is possible to broadly break down Inklings unique features into six major categories:

User Interface

The user interface of Inkling titles is highly refined, simple, easy to use and ensures that information can be found quickly. An interactive table of contents can be refined within each chapter to find the specific information quickly. Features that we expect from textbooks such as the use of bookmarks, notes and highlighting allow the user to annotate the textbook as they see fit. The use of hyperlinking between different sections mean that navigation throughout each textbook is simple and straightforward.

Price

Inkling allows students to purchase individual chapters within textbooks. This would obviously be impractical with physical textbooks but is relatively simple to achieve with a purely electronic distribution. This means that the average amount of money a student has to spend is less, unless they need the whole book in which case the price is still competitive compared to physical versions.
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Search Function

Any electronic textbook that wants to be taken seriously should have an effective search function. One of the many advantages of this is that it allows information to be rapidly found. The search function in Inkling is well implemented and particularly useful due to its ability to sort between the different media types available. Results can be ordered by Relevance, Content Order or Type.

Failing that, it is possible to search Wikipedia or Google from within the app using an in-app browser. This saves time switching between apps when looking for clarification on a particular term. The inbuilt notebook feature allows you to build up a complete set of notes based on the text within the textbook. These can be shared publicly or privately (more details below)
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Quiz Function

One of the first major successes Inkling had was integrating simple quiz functions into textbooks. This significantly improved the content delivery as it has been shown that repeat assessment is one of the best ways to learn information. Modalities such as Anatomy have been learned in a flashcard format long before the advent of the iPad and Inkling was one of the first to integrate this style of learning with a textbook. User scores can be tracked using the inbuilt scorecard while Inkling helpfully provide hints if you get a question wrong.
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Media Integration

The integration of media was again one of Inklings first major successes. Taking different forms of media such as audio, video and animations and combining them with detailed, well known textbooks has proved to be a great combination. Challenging concepts can be explained using videos narrated by experts. Interactive 3D models can be used to aid anatomical understanding. The quality of the images is high and standard touch gestures ensure that navigation is easy.
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Social Integration

The introduction of Inkling 2.0 in August this year brought about a new level of interaction. It is now possible to follow anyone using your book, see their notes and highlights in real time, create running discussions anywhere, and star the most helpful notes. If your course is supported by Inkling, then it is also possible to see the notes written by your professor (although I could not test this feature). I found the social feature difficult to use and integrate with my workflow due to the fact that I did not have an immediate social network of people using Inkling around me.

Personally, I would only want to see comments from trusted sources such as classmates or professors rather than connect to random people. However, there is no doubt that some students will find this new level of interaction a useful resource.

It is as if Inkling is creating a personal learning space focused around whichever textbook you happen to be using. This has the potential to be a very interesting feature if enough people use Inkling.
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The combination of all these features means electronic textbooks from Inkling barely resemble the actual texts they are based on. These features are all designed to facilitate and improve learning and, in my experience, are quite successful. In the next part of this series, we look at how Inkling is trying to integrate with a range of medical schools and how successful this has been. We will also take a look at what the future holds for Inkling and how this can be applicable to medical education. Stay tuned.

What are your thoughts on the interactive features offered by Inkling?