This project explored the use of a vision-based augmented reality (AR) application (Heart App), which has been developed by the Open University, specifically for a second level Human Biology module (SK299).
Through multiple methodologies, including web survey, questionnaires, focus-groups and interview, this project aimed to explore student and practitioner experiences and perceptions relating to potential benefits and challenges associated with this Heart App.
Findings indicate that although most students reported finding the Heart App easy to install on their device(s), a number experienced some difficulty, and as a result of this project, the student instructions are being improved for the next presentation of the module.
The results also suggest that there is some uncertainty with regards to whether students understand the nature of augmented reality. As a result of this project, the initial user interface on Open Science Laboratory is going to be changed, to make it clearer for students the best devices to use, how to download the Heart App, and what to expect in terms of output during use.
Students reported that they valued being in control of the pace of their learning. They also commented positively on the ability to visualise aspects of the heart; students indicated that being able to manipulate and visualise structures consolidated their learning from the text.
However, it is important to acknowledge that just over one-fifth of the combined email survey respondents (students on 18J and 17J presentations) felt that the Heart App did not aid their understanding of the anatomy/physiology of the heart, with some 17% of respondents overall finding the 3D heart too complex to interpret. Although the reasons behind this result are difficult to unpick, it may be related to technological/practicalities of use, and hence improved support around use of the Heart App may help students on future presentations.
The majority of students found the Heart App was fun to use (approx. 58% of non-nursing students, 65% nursing students), and over three quarters of respondents wanted to see AR used more often to support their learning, a finding which supports experiences in the wider literature on the use of AR in education. However, approx. 45% reported that they preferred learning about the heart using the text, 2Dimages and videos on the module website. Again, this finding may be tied to technological issues; however, this finding also reinforces the need for a mixed media approach when supporting student learning in an online environment. Students are not a homogenous group, and different educational approaches and tools may suit different students.
Most practitioners responded positively towards the Heart App; reporting that overall, the Heart App was a good use of student time and that it aided understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the heart.