Enhancing learning for engineering trade learners: Augmented paper-based materials in course design
This project developed a process to embed augmented reality targets into course materials and trialled the materials developed with a group of learners to see whether or not having access to the images improved their learning experience and helped them engage with the material.
This project was funded by Ako Aotearoa and initiated by Open Polytechnic staff to test the feasibility of embedding augmented reality targets, which could be viewed on computers using a simple webcam, into print material for second-year apprentice engineering trade learners at the Open Polytechnic. This would enable them to see the images in 3-D form, thus improving their learning experience.
With augmented reality (AR) software the real-world image is augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery that is created when a webcam or camera-like device ‘reads’ the target embedded in a page.
The second-year apprentice engineering trade learners were chosen as a ‘test’ group because they are generally kinaesthetic learners who don’t always have access to the real-life artefacts they are studying. If this project was successful, further developments could be undertaken to enable augmented targets to be viewed via cellphones.
Learners who view images of artefacts on a computer screen are able to rotate and enlarge them, as well as view them from different angles.
The objectives for the project were:
- Test the ‘proof of concept’ of using three-dimensional digital graphics for paper-based distance learning materials.
- Collaborate with schools and support centres to develop materials.
- Deliver the course materials to learners.
- Seek feedback from learners.
- Write a research report that includes recommendations for further use and an analysis of scalability and transferability.
The agreed outcomes were the development of:
- ‘proof of concept’
- material for learners to trial – this included the development of targets in one unit of work
- a scalable and transferable process.
The process involved conversion of three-dimensional AutoCAD models so that they could be used by learners using AR software triggered from printed learning material using a web camera.
The AR software converted the models into three-dimensional images that could be viewed from all angles by manipulating the viewing angle of the web camera. We then inserted targets into course materials, put the AR software and image files on a DVD, developed instructions and sent the materials to learners to trial. As part of this process three staff from the Open Polytechnic user tested the course materials and software.
Issues related to computer compatibility caused difficulties for learners and meant that while the project team felt that the development of a process and associated learning had been successful, we were unable to trial the material fully with learners.
Conclusions and recommendations
Proof of concept was achieved from an instructional design perspective where the learning materials provided an additional dimension for the learner. The process of adding easily accessible 3-D graphics to augment the paper-based learning packages used for teaching trade engineering theory also was achieved with relative ease. The technological implications associated with the learners’ study environment presented greater challenges which limited the full potential of the learning outcome.
The recommendations arising from this project are:
- Use the process developed for this project to insert augmented reality targets in course material.
- Establish learners’ computer hardware and software configurations and their capability to meet the technical requirements to augment paper based learning packages.
- Establish a repository of high-quality images that can be rendered in 3-D.
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