Augmented Reality

Imagine hovering your smartphone camera display over a poster on a wall and seeing a video appear on screen related to the content of the poster. Augmented reality (AR) works in this way. See the video below for an example. It merges content created virtually (videos, images, animations, graphics) with real world environments. This virtual content is layered over a real-life object, whether that is a picture, a person or even a building, the options are endless. Viewed through the camera display on a smartphone or tablet device, these AR ‘overlays’ can be triggered by a GPS location, a sound, or through the recognition of an image (usually a photograph, graphical display, painting or poster). This is dependent on the application used but if content is synchronised, using an AR app, then content can ‘overlay’ information, for example, onto a famous landmark, or help someone to navigate around an a city area.

Newspapers, magazines and advertising agencies have already made use of AR. I’ve seen one app used to animate logos and text displays in the headlines of newspapers. It is fun seeing an advertisement in a newspaper come to life as an animation, however, this use of AR appears, in my opinion, rather gimmicky and the ‘fun’ effect was one that quickly waned. In terms of using two forms of media together, I think that comes down to preference. Certainly in my own experience I’m unlikely to use my phone or tablet for AR purposes whilst simultaneously reading a newspaper. AR in the context of entertainment will inevitably face practical questions as to why audiences should use AR in conjunction with other firmly established forms of media. Will the technological development of AR echo the anticipated rise and now more recent fall of the 3D TV? I do believe AR has a place that, once identified, will integrate it into certain elements of everyday practice. My hope is that this practice includes education and the interactivity found in learning environments.

AR in Education

It’s hard to know where to start when choosing an app to work with AR. A brief search through the Google Play and online App stores reveals an explosion of AR apps all focusing on different types augmented experiences. This ranges from live virtual views of someone’s location, using map software, to producing music using a hand-drawn piano layout.

After trying a lot of different AR apps, I came across Aurasma. Aurasma is a smart device app that was demonstrated by Judy Bloxham at the e-Assessment Association hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University in November 2012. Judy’s involvement in an AR project, supported by JISC and their RSC Northwest Network, is powered by Aurasma and has utilised AR for the purposes of enhancing educational content. The project compiled a series of posters that aided formative assessment and became interactive when students used the Aurasma app alongside them. This helped students to engage in a reflective thinking process drawing upon some of the key principles they had covered in their learning of the subject. Using AR and interactive content like this can also provide an ideal entry point for a learning activity to begin – with options to break down content into a series of options that students can choose to follow.

A good example is outlined in the poster below (provided by Judy Bloxham), allowing the user has to use Aurasma to interact with a series of buttons and videos to see which is the correct shelf for storing raw meat in the fridge.

fridge[Link to the original website for this poster:]

You can use Aurasma’s image recognition tool and see how this poster can trigger interactive learning content. This can be tested on a computer screen or using a printed version of one of the posters linked below. There are two ways to do this depending on the smart device that you are using. Some instructions are outlined below.

Android devices:

1. Visit the Google Play store to search and download Aurasma
2. Open Aurasma and press the ‘A’  icon at the bottom of the screen
3. This takes you to the Explore section. Press the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen to go to the Search page.
4. Type in RSC Northwest to find the RSC Northwest Channel. Click the image and then click the ‘Following’ button on the next screen.
5. Now press the bracket icon [ ] on the bottom line to return to the camera view. Then view over one of the posters below.

Apple devices:

1. You can download Aurasma in the same way as above (for the Android devices) and follow the options to connect to the RSC Northwest channel.
2. Alternatively, search RSC Northwest in the App Store and install it to your Apple device.
3. Use the camera view and hover one of the posters below. Make sure the whole of the poster is displayed on your smart device.


[Link to the original website for this poster:]


[Link to the original website for this poster:]

These are examples of how an image can trigger an Aurasma ‘aura’. Open one of the PDF files to full screen and hover your smartphone device over the image. If the app has joined the channel correctly the image should trigger the interactive ‘aura’ content. Do let us know in the comment box below about your experiences using this app.

To read more about the use of AR used in education then visit the following sites below. These were recommended by Judy Bloxham, who I would like to thank on behalf of the eLearning Unit here at the University of Liverpool, for allowing us permission to make use of the above posters, demonstrating the use of Augmented Reality in education. Her work in raising awareness about the potential benefits of AR in education is ongoing and well worth following. Below are some further links related to the information above and to other AR projects, if you would like to delve further.

Guardian Blog Post –

Scarlet Project –

cARe Project

Living Learning: Plumbing from Kendal College

written by Phil Walker

eLearning Network Meeting – Social Bookmarking – MOOCs

The first e-learning network meeting of 2013 took place on Thursday 31st January. Over thirty staff with an interest in learning technologies from across the University met for lunch, to hear about some of the interesting and innovative activities in which colleagues are involved, and of course an opportunity for some informal discussion and networking.

The main part of the meeting was given over to an excellent presentation and discussion led by Dr Tim Bullough and Dr Andrew Green from the School of Engineering on the JISC-funded ENGrich project. This project has developed a set of student tools that greatly improve the facility of their online searches for rich multimedia resources that are discipline relevant. The returned resources can then be bookmarked and rated by the students for their usefulness for a specific module and these ratings shared within the institution and year groups. This set of tools is planned to be made available directly from the University’s student portal and whilst currently set up for Engineering students, with further development work could be repurposed for any discipline, particularly those that utilise a lot of visual resources and which also employ technical terms that have different meanings in other fields.


The initial driver for the project was the finding in Engineering that the majority of students will first turn to searching online for lecture slides and videos of lectures from any  reasonable-looking source for further information on the subject of a lecture. Two main problems were identified with this behaviour:

  • Students spent far too much time looking for relevant and useful resources (especially where basic search methods only are deployed and technical terms are also used by completely different disciplines so that irrelevant results are returned).
  • Before the project began, there were no tools in place for students to be able to share these resources between themselves where they found something particularly useful.

The first part of the project harnessed the Google Custom Search facility to create a search box which would allow students to enter simple search terms but filter out irrelevant results (Engineering uses technical terms such as stress, fracture, fatigue and strain which are common to medicine and veterinary science as well). The search can be categorised by resource format such as video or slide presentations, and the added power here is that individual resources can be quickly searched on the page without having to open them up separately.

ENGrich search and results

The second part of the project was to develop a closed space (specific to Liverpool) where students can rate resources that they found most useful and share these ratings with each other, grouped by module and programme. The ENGrich team have chosen the Learning Registry toolkit (an open source system for sharing, amongst other data, ‘ratings, reviews, comments, and other annotation data’) and used it to create a private University of Liverpool ‘Node’ where the resource ratings can be created, accessed and shared by the students.

Here’s the link to the project website and this link is to the JISC page for ENGrich. Thanks to Tim and Andrew for a superb contribution to the eLearning Network and we look forward to hearing how this project progresses in the future as it moves from its test phase. The session was videoed and a link to this will be added here when available.

We also had a quick discussion on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) about which there has been a lot of media and academic interest, with major universities offering free online modules and programmes (mostly unaccredited) and attracting learners in the tens of thousands. The elearn-net mailing list at Liverpool has already seen a lot of interesting discussion about the value and variety of MOOCS and the eLU are planning at least one lunchtime event to explore this topic further. From the network meeting there was a positive response to the notion of MOOCs, that it would be a useful thing for Liverpool to engage with if done well, and some staff very keen to run one themselves.

Look out on our events calendar for the next eLearning Network meeting as well as for the MOOCs event, and if there is anything you would like to bring along and present or discuss at a future meeting please do get in touch with the eLU.

Please also contact the eLearning Unit if you would like to be added to the e-learning mailing list ‘elearn-net’ at the University of Liverpool.


Webinar – Marking by criteria in VITAL – 20th February

A quick post to advertise a webinar the eLearning Unit will be running on Wednesday 20th February 2013 on the new Rubrics interactive marking facility in VITAL. Full details below.

VITAL webinar – Easier Marking By Criteria – Using the Rubrics Card

If you are marking and offering feedback electronically to students in VITAL modules, the new marking by criteria facility (using the ‘Rubrics’ tool) could be useful as a part of this process. Rubrics can be used for marking Blackboard assignments, blogs and wikis for example.

Example of an interactive criteria marking card (‘Rubrics’)

The eLearning Unit will be running a lunchtime webinar on the ‘Rubrics’ criteria-marking facility on Wednesday 20th February between 13:00 and 14:00. Go to our booking page here to sign up and we will send you instructions for joining near to the session date.

About Webinars: The webinar format means you join the session online from your office PC rather than having to go to a training room on campus. The session will comprise the elements of a face-to-face session but run virtually. All you will need to participate in the session is a pair of headphones for your computer and an internet connection. (A microphone can also be useful but not essential as text ‘chat’ can be used for communication in the session.)

About VITAL Rubrics: Interactive, electronic versions of criteria sheets can be created, attached to most assessable items in a VITAL module and used for marking. Cards can be used to generate a grade or can be used qualitatively, they can be made visible to your students before they submit their work or after, and they allow for extra written feedback if required for every level on each criterion. Further, criteria cards can be shared amongst marking teams, as well as adapted, re-purposed and re-used.

Rubrics Webinar:  The session will cover:

  1. What are rubrics and rubrics cards?
  2. What can be marked in VITAL by rubric card and an example of use (includes student view).
  3. Setting up rubrics cards in VITAL.
  4. Question and Answer.

There will be opportunities to ask questions as we go along and to try out the Rubrics facility.

(Please note that this session does not cover the Turnitin GradeMark rubric card – contact the eLU for details of our next session on GradeMark or to arrange a workshop.) Contact the eLearning Unit with any questions you may have on the above.

Acute Oncology Online Module

Many people’s lives are touched by cancer, either through direct experience or seeing someone close to them suffer with the disease. In line with a desire to diagnose and treat cancer more effectively specialist acute oncology teams have been established in District General Hospitals throughout the country. These teams include consultants, nurses and other practitioners who all need to work together to treat emergency presentations of cancer and care for patients with their expertise and experience.

To help develop and train these teams, establish new treatment protocols and share best practice an online module in Acute Oncology has been developed within the University of Liverpool. Running for the second time in September this year, and significantly redeveloped from the first instance in February, this eight week module aims to train professionals involved with acute oncology. It is the first online module in the UK catering for this specialised important initiative.

The module structure consists of six purely online weeks of content created by experts in the field, combined with participation in interactive discussion boards on selected topics. This module is fully accredited by the University and carries 15 CETS and is approved for 16 CPD points. The activities within the module ask participants to demonstrate their knowledge of NHS structures and the management of cancer. It also asks them to critically reflect on their own practice and evaluate current protocols and processes with reference to the appropriate literature. The personal reflection takes the form of entries into an assessed learning diary and recorded outcomes from formative assessments.

Paul Duvall and Phil Walker from the eLearning Unit (eLU) have produced this online module in partnership with academic colleagues from the Health and Life Sciences Faculty. The academic lead for this module is Dr John Green from the Institute of Translational Medicine. The eLU provide support to create online Continuing Professional Development (CPD) modules and resources for departments in the University. This module is just one of the online CPD projects currently in progress within the eLU.

With students from around the country (one even studying from New Zealand!) in the current cohort it is anticipated that this module will be repeated multiple times over the coming years and plans to enhance the module further with additional multimedia content and interviews with experts in the field are already under way.

If you are interested in this module development, eLearning Unit activities or if you would like to produce online CPD within your department please contact us for further information at .

Paul Duvall

Making sense of learning in a digital age – guest lecture events

A forthcoming event:

You are warmly invited to a guest lecture on “Making sense of learning in a digital age” on the 31st October 2012, 1-2pm presented by Helen Beetham, an international speaker on this topic.
The guest lecture  event is of interest to anyone who wants to improve the student learning experience. Please have a look the flyer for details of the event, persuade and bring another colleague to come with you, and see you there!

Making sense of learning in a digital age - guest lecture by Helen Beetham
Making sense of learning in a digital age – guest lecture by Helen Beetham

In addition, Helen Beetham is also facilitating a workshop on the same day between 2.30-4.30, entitled Designing for C21st learning: digital capability in programme design and development” which will be of value to anyone involved in programme or module development with a remit of developing academic and/or employability skills.

Please book on to the events at the CLL booking site (both, or either the guest lecture or the workshop) just that we know how big a room we will need. The workshop can cater up to a maximum 25 people, on a first-come, first-served basis. The flyer is also linked at our eLearning Unit Blog.

For more information about the event, please contact: (admin) or Tunde Varga-Atkins,

Sarra and Tunde, on behalf of the Developing Digital Literacies Working Group

Emerging Challenges in Postgraduate Teaching in the Biological Sciences

On July 17th the University of Liverpool hosted a seminar funded by the HEA STEM on postgraduate teaching. The idea for the seminar came from Dr Luciane Mello (School of Life Sciences), and delegates from several universities were present. Six speakers helped to make the day extremely productive delivering very interesting and thought-provoking talks. The event aimed to promote a network between professionals specialising in Masters level teaching, as well to share good practice.

Dr Nathan Pike opened the day presenting the structure and major activities of the HEA, covering events, grant funds available, scholarships etc. He invited the audience to submit their pedagogic research to the HEA’s own journal, Bioscience Education.

Dr Ian Willis presented some interesting statistics on feedback from overseas PGT students and pointed out that the impressive size of the PGT market and the unexpected major origins of students.

Dr Nathan Pike then returned to speak about a PGT Bioscience degree that had run in Oxford.  He presented the results of qualitative research into student engagement, attitude and learning strategies, distinguishing between high, medium and lower achievers.

Illustrating the common challenges between Biological Sciences and Engineering when dealing with postgraduate teaching, Dr Matt Murphy discussed the MSc (Eng) programme in Liverpool, describing the impressive diversity in country of origin and culture of the students and their resulting variability with respect to a variety of skills.

Dr Luciane Mello discussed about changes in teaching practice to address the growing student diversity in a PGT cohort. She presented a pedagogical background of self-directed learning (SDL) and how this approach was therefore chosen as a means to address diversity.

Prof Andy Brass presented a fascinating perspective on the changing nature of PGT provision in the University of Manchester, revolving round the concept of the Data Scientist.

Prof Steve Edwards then presented Liverpool’s initiatives in the area of Internationalisation, describing the institutional partnerships already made and the benefits envisaged for students who spend part of their time in a foreign country.

Dr Sue Assinder then presented the various Masters courses run out of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, where students claim great satisfaction with their projects which taught them not just scientific skills but an awareness of the difference science can make to societies.

Quotes from the delegates about the day:

“The meeting has highlighted various issued for post graduate teaching and problems. I am pleased that I have attended this meeting. Very useful.”

“Impressed by the effort and thought that people put into postgraduate teaching.”

“An important and rare opportunity to discuss PGT issues.”

“Useful mix of pedagogical work and case examples.”

The day finished with everyone asking for more opportunities to discuss PGT, which clearly reflects the success of the day.

Please add a comment below if you attended the event and would like to continue your discussions from the day, or if you are interested in this area of activity in general and would like to get involved.

Luciane Mello

The Americans are coming – again!

Circa 2000 I remember attending a conference on online distance learning at the University of Salford where the CEO of an American-based internet development company stood up (classic alpha-male stuff!) and shouted at all the academics in the audience ‘the Americans are coming!’ Basically he was warning that US HEI’s with Californian venture capital backing etc. will be soon taking over global higher education as new learners flock to take cheaper, more flexible online degrees. ‘Change or die’ being the basic message! Over a decade later not much has changed except the emergence of for-profit online distance teaching providers (our partnership with Laureate Online Education for example), the development of open-educational resources (MIT’s open courseware etc.) and the steady expansion of blended learning using technologies within residential universities. Arguably more of a steady evolution than the technology-led revolution predicted.


The recent press announcement of a new partnership between Harvard and MIT to form edX online education suggest the Americans might be at it again! The press conference on the website is full of revolutionary fervour! Is this nothing new or potentially a subtle but important evolution in how we learn? My initial reaction was here we go again! But watching the press release video (once you get through the hyperbole) and other media reports, possibly there is something new emerging here:

  • First pilot module they ran attracted 120,000 registrations worldwide.
  • Free open courses – can’t get a degree but you can get an assessed certificate.
  • Created a clever online research environment to gather a lot of data about how people learn online. Essentially a large global experiment. (Learning analytics)
  • Created new agile open-source software which can be developed from this emerging pedagogical research. Interesting that they are not using existing VLE or Web 2 technologies.
  • Builds on their experiences with open courseware, and particularly their student’s use of online resources such as the Khan Academy to supplement their campus-based learning.
  • A big driver is to support the development of campus-based learning – sort of flipped classroom model on a global scale! Online cases taught with campus-based classes.
  • Part altruistic strategy to spread learning globally & part marketing opportunity.
  • Potentially fills a gap between formal and informal online education – clear benefit for non-formal CPD type professional education. People who already have masters etc. but want to study specific topics within a large global community.
  • Employers and companies can be part of these learning communities and get to know students.


Other major US HEI’s are developing similar initiatives – Coursera (Princeton, Stanford, Michigan & Pennsylvania) and Udacity (Stanford computer science) for example. Coursera looks an interesting online learning model with a well defined pedagogical research foundation. I’ve signed up for a course on gamification over the summer so I let you know more about this online pedagogy!

Nick Bunyan