People, roles and skills
What people and roles are required to develop an AR project?
The people and roles required to develop an AR project include learning technologists, content or subject matter experts, project managers. The SCARLET project was notable for its mixed team approach involving the following people:
- Academics provided the pedagogic input to help drive the project to success.
- Staff at John Rylands University Library Special Collections enthused the team with their passion for special collections materials. They provided expertise and understanding of collections to support the academics subject knowledge.
- The Learning technologist worked closely with the entire team to develop 3D models and AR content.
- The library technologist ensured that integration between various systems and technologies worked seamlessly.
- The internal project evaluator ensured that feedback from AR developments was captured and used to inform development of the SCARLET application.
- Project managers guided the project to ensure that within the short timescale we were able to demonstrate to the educational and library community the potential of using Augmented Reality.
What time and skills are intially required from a learning technologist to develop a simple AR application or perform the function of each of these roles?
The Learning Technologist needs a good knowledge of web technologies in order to assist in creating engaging and interactive AR content. Although not a necessity, good scripting skills (PHP, XML) and understanding of frameworks and APIs will ensure that any technical issues can and will be remedied quickly. There are a number of tools that can assist in the development of basic AR for non-technical users; however, these tend to be limited in scope, so if you want to create a more personalised user experience it is useful to understand the code that they are built on.
Considerations for the other roles can be found in the next section.
What are the main considerations for each of these roles?
Library IT considerations
Access to devices
Whilst many users now have their own devices capable of using AR services, many do not. If inclusivity is an issue, therefore, the institution may need to consider providing devices for loan.
Issues to consider when providing devices include:
• The life span of the equipment purchased is likely to be short. Mobile device technology is changing quickly and you may need to put in place budget for the regular replacement of devices bought. • You will need to download apps from the appropriate app store. These may include paid for apps in which case you will need to provide details from a corporate credit card. You will need to identify an individual who can be associated with the account (probably someone within the local IT team). • Devices will need to be easily accessible but stored securely with proper reservation and loan procedures in place. Wireless access Whilst many users using augmented reality based services will use their own devices that come with network access many will not, or will be unwilling to use their own network do to the cost). It is therefore vital that good WIFI connectivity is available in the spaces where the AR service is to be used. Integration with University systems If most of the content you wish to provide access to is already delivered through a web interface, there are unlikely to be any significant integration issues. The main concern is likely to be display – it may be necessary to reformat output to make it more useable in a mobile environment. However it is worthwhile testing all integrations to ensure that data is pulled through and rendered correctly.
Where services require authentication this can cause serious usability issues and you may want to consider providing a non-authenticated view of the data pointed to. Accessing licensed content Staff identifying content for inclusion in a service may wish to include licensed content (such as a journal article provided on a publisher website). This can cause serious usability issues as authentication is likely to be required if IP address recognition is not in place or if users are using their own devices. You may want to discourage accessing such content and identify alternatives.
Library Special Collections considerations
Enriching the experience of using Special Collections
AR provides a wonderful opportunity for enriching the experience of users of Special Collections materials. It can transform it from being a rather passive learning experience – students being talked at by curators and tutors, or visitors reading exhibition captions, for example – into something that is much more engaging and interactive. It therefore fits in well with modern enquiry-based learning methodologies. We found that AR was most beneficial in introducing undergraduates and visitors to a subject or an aspect of our collections. It is not a research tool, and has limited relevance for experienced undergraduates and postgraduate students.
Although it wasn’t an element of the Scarlet project, AR also has the potential for linking difference parts of your collections together: for example maps and archival records, photographs and audio-visual content. Choose your materials carefully
AR works best with small quantities of distinctive materials, such as unique illuminated manuscripts and early printed books, which can serve as visual cues for the apps. It is less suited to large quantities of material, such as large archives, and run-of-the-mill printed items. Obviously the material needs to be intrinsically interesting. You also need to consider how to associate QR codes or other visual cues with the objects to which they relate. It obviously isn’t appropriate to attach a QR code directly onto a Special Collections item: you might need to attach it to an acid-free bookmark, or use a distinctive feature of the item itself, such as a title page or frontispiece. Consider the needs of your audiences carefully
There is a danger that the technology can be the driver of AR apps, not the needs of your audience. You need to know your audiences and their needs, and you will of course want to involve them in the development and evaluation of apps. Does an app fulfil a particular pedagogical need? What is it adding to the student’s or visitor’s experience? If the answer is ‘not much’, or ‘not sure’, it’s time for a rethink!
Working with academics and other experts
We found it a really rewarding experience to work with enthusiastic academics, and the Library staff learned a great deal from the process. In a way, this wasn’t particularly surprising, as we chose academics with whom we already had a good relationship, and who are interested in innovative pedagogy. Working with less IT-savvy academics or experts might be more challenging. Our experience does point out the importance of developing close relationships with academics and other key stakeholders for your organization.
Special Collections sometimes have a reputation for being rather staid and stick-in-the-mud. The SCARLET project put the John Rylands Library’s Special Collections at the forefront of technological developments, and focussed attention on our remarkable collections. There are significant promotional and publicity opportunities involved in developing successful AR apps.
Library management considerations
Developing successful AR apps takes time and effort, and you’ll want to maximize the benefits from that investment. It is therefore sensible to plan for your apps to have a reasonable shelf-life, of say two-three years. This means that you won’t want to depend upon ephemeral content. However, it isn’t reasonable to expect apps to have a longer shelf-life; the technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that what is leading-edge now may soon appear tired and old fashion. Think about refreshing existing apps from time to time with new content, or a visual makeover. If you are linking to external web resources, check the links regularly.
You will probably wish to develop the capacity to create and update apps within your organization. While outsourcing elements of the process may initially be quicker and easier to manage, and result in a more ‘polished’ product, there is a danger that you will never develop expertise in-house, and there is also a risk of being locked into expensive maintenance agreements. Of course there are also dangers of relying entirely on one or two key people within your organisation: ideally the expertise should be spread as widely as possible.
The old adage that the more you put in, the more you’ll get out certainly applies to AR: the greater the effort and investment you put in, the more students and other users will get out of it. Simply throwing together an image and a few web links is not likely to satisfy most users of AR apps. We found that students really appreciated information that was tailored to the specific books and manuscripts being discussed, rather than being generic. They pointed out that they could obtain general information more easily from the web. They particularly appreciated the video presentations made by tutors on individual books and manuscripts.
On the other hand, in a period of severe financial constraint, no-one can lavish infinite time and money on AR apps. You may want to concentrate resources on a limited number of significant items, and to repurpose existing content as much as possible. The cost of apps can be surprisingly low. For example, rather than commissioning professional-made videos, we made our own. You could also make use of volunteers and interns: making an app would be a great project for media and heritage studies students.
AR apps can also serve to showcase and repurpose existing investments in digitisation and cataloguing activity, not only helping to justify the expenditure on such activities, but serving to promote them as well.
A success AR project requires a wide range of skills and expertise: collection knowledge, pedagogical expertise, technical skills, knowledge of your audiences and their needs, promotional skills, etc. It is therefore likely to require the active, enthusiastic participation of curators, external experts, teachers, IT specialists, project managers and marketing and communications staff. The experience of the Scarlet project was very rewarding, in that it helpful to consolidate relations between academics and students within The University of Manchester, John Rylands Library staff, and the project managers and IT experts in Mimas. Other AR projects may provide exciting opportunities for working with other institutions, community groups and individuals, enabling the sharing of expertise and development costs.
In order to justify continued investment in AR and to ensure that it meets customers’ needs, it’s important to evaluate your project, using a range of quantitative and qualitative measures. Have you achieved the outputs and outcomes that you forecast at the start of the project? What difference has it made? What could have been done better? Are there potential cost savings for future projects? Are there opportunities for partnerships with other organisations?
Project evaluator considerations
1. What were the objectives in evaluating the SCARLET Project?
• To create a selection of data which showed what about the SCARLET application students found useful in their coursework • To determine how “skilled up” students needed to be to use the app (i.e., did they have previous experience using Augmented Reality? Do they have a Smartphone? etc.) • To determine what worked well and what needed continued development for potential future stages of the Project
2. How was the SCARLET Project formally evaluated?
• The formative evaluative process involved an early stage focus group with 3rd year undergraduates in the pilot course, “The Book and Its Body”. The session was approximately 1 hour, and offered the students a chance to be reminded how the app actually worked and what its use was to have been in special collections. • Following on from the focus group, a blog post was written up to highlight the specific lessons learned. The students presented some interesting points regarding the use of the technology, along with some pertinent anxieties over how it might get in the way of the actual experience of working with the ancient editions of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. • An exit interview of the academics who were directly involved in the design and implementation of the Project • In addition, four more focus groups were conducted with groups of 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students in follow-on courses: in Dr. Armstrong’s ITAL 10300,“Contemporary Italian Culture,” and Dr. Roberta Mazza’s CLAH30320, “Advanced Greek 3” and RELT20232, “The Body and Society: Christianity and the West.” • An exit survey with the students was conducted as a part of the summative evaluative process. • Blog posts accompanied all of this work.
3. How was overall success of the SCARLET Project determined?
• Student feedback via the Focus Groups (formative assessment) illustrated overall satisfaction with the course offering and delivery • Student feedback via the Online Survey (summative assessment) also showed overall satisfaction with the course and its delivery • Academic feedback from exit interviews (to be conduction on 28 May 2012)
4. What are some examples of links to additional helpful sources? • Determining whether there are related projects is helpful in presenting the project. The examples below are indicative that our own project was both built on an existing ethos of course delivery, but remained unique among courses and modules using non-traditional means to delivery content. o University of Exeter LAYER: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/students/life/layar/ o JUNAIO: http://www.junaio.com/
Project management considerations
The first step prior to developing a project is to source appropriate funding to support development. Identifying sources of funding, whether internal to your organisation or external is paramount. Proposals and funding applications should clearly outline the project aims and objectives. Telling a story can help to set the scene, provide a rationale for doing the project and emphasise the potential benefits.
It’s important to get the right balance of people within a team to ensure that the project functions effectively. Cross disciplinary projects and those involving a mixed team such as the SCARLET project need the right people with the right skills This can involve a significant amount of time at the outset of the project and this shouldn’t be underestimated. A successful AR project requires a variety of skills and expertise. The SCARLET project included library and special collections experts, academics, learning technologists and project managers. These diverse roles brought a much-needed mixture of skills and expertise to the project. An enthusiastic team with a shared focus and common aims is key to making progress on innovative projects where timescales are tight.
Project plan, budget and WP:
A project plan defining aims and objectives, means of achieving them, outputs, measures of success and approaches to project management is a useful working document for the whole team to help review and monitor the project. Detailed plans for work packages help all the team to understand the project and means of achieving the project aims. It’s important to involve all team members in development of the work packages and project plan to develop a shared vision and establish the viability of the project.
When developing any AR project it’s important to consider how you will disseminate it. If dissemination activities are planned at the outset it’s easier to make sure that the right people are informed about progress, at the right time, using the most appropriate methods. Consider the purpose of the dissemination activity, think about what you want to achieve and how it will support or inform project development.
Create a schedule outlining possible dissemination events, articles, conferences and meetings where there will be opportunities to highlight the work of the project. It may be that additional funding will need to be secured in order to attend events but it’s useful to list all options should additional budget become available.