Field Research Project : Pilots for Folklore and Design

As part of an ENGAGE Situated Learning award, MLI and DoIT Academic Technology worked with faculty to design new field research activities in two courses.

In Design Studies 501, students identified, documented and geotagged various plants used for papermaking. The data was collected and aggregated to a simple website for later analysis. Based on their own research, students produced a number of creative works using the materials, data and experiences of the field experience.

In Folklore 100, students were prompted to use the city of Madison as the field for collecting examples of various folkloric phenomena. In total, over 700 photographs and multimedia media clips were collected and aggregated into a website for classroom and student use. These notes were automatically uploaded to a shared web site where they could be filtered and analyzed. Students revisited and reflected on them throughout the semester and in their final projects. Following this field work, 16 students were inspired to use ARIS to create their final project.

Each project used 5-10 hours of AT consultant time, not including PA support. MLI supplied near 160 hours of student development time to create the mobile software that facilitated the above activities in addition to videography. Evaluation was anecdotal, as these were pilot projects.

Key Findings

  • A simple lightweight (3 hours to create) “field research framework” that prompts student-populating of content can create high impact, low investment mobile learning experiences.
  • Form factor matters — in this field research activity, iPads were said too be big/bulky, and got in the way of interacting with the phenomena; pocket-sized devices would have been better in many contexts.
  • Limited Internet connections in remote areas, and slow upload speeds (for video especially) caused some frustrations. Even on campus, cellular data coverage was not robust enough to support flawless video uploading.
  • Checking out devices to students groups of students was awkward. As mobile devices are becoming increasingly personalized, sharing one device between students was frustrating; many chose to use their own device instead.
  • Evident in student essays and comments, this a valuable and durable learning activity. They enjoyed finding, producing, sharing, commenting, and reflecting on each others’ content. They noted especially that the peer-to-peer aspect of the experience — reflecting on each others’ content — allowed them to understand course concepts from multiple diverse perspectives.


These pilots created tools that can be used to produce simple field research activities using ARIS. For example, the Ornithology 601 course this fall is using those improvements. Additionally, this work provided the foundation for building a new field research platform which is being piloted in Fall 2013. The goal is for that work to lead to an NSF TUES grant.


Mary Hark – Faculty for Design Studies 501
Tim Frandy – Instructor for Folklore 100
Angela Richardson – Teaching Assistant for Design Studies 501
John Martin – Instructional Consultant
Cheryl Diemyer – Project Manager for Mark Hark
Timmo Dugdale – Project Manager for Tim Frandy
Luiz Lopez – Project Assistant, ARIS Technical Support
Cid Frietag – Engage Situated Learning Award Project Manager
Kim Arnold – Engage Evaluator
Philip Dougherty – Lead MLI Developer
Brian Theil – MLI Developer
Jacob Hanshaw – MLI Developer
Shelby Copeland – MLI Video Producer
Chris Lupton – Engage Program Manager
David Gagnon – MLI Program Manager