SOILX: A NEW ONLINE OPEN EDUCATION RESOURCE TO SUPPORT TEACHING AND LEARNING IN SOIL SCIENCE
The Virtual Soil Science Learning Resources (VSSLR) group (soilweb.ca) developed an innovative, location-based tool called SOILx that connects educational soil science content to specific geographical locations through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. SOILx was created by integrating open technologies such as Google Fusion Tables, Wikitude Augmented Reality browser and Wordpress content management system. SOILx itself is an open education resource (OER) freely available under "Creative Commons" (CC) licence for non-profit educational and research institutions to utilize or incorporate into their own teaching and learning resources. It is an engaging resource that supports meaningful learning opportunities, accommodates flexible teaching and learning approaches and allows for user-generated content to be added to the dynamic database.
The expanding use of smartphone and tablet usage in Canada and around the world opens opportunities to create mobile open learning resources. Whereas computers can be expensive, cell phones are readily available, affordable and via the internet can provide access to high quality educational content that is interactive, engaging and user-generated.
The design and development of online learning resources for mobile devices requires special consideration regarding user experience (UX) and usability issues for different platforms and devices. Using Wordpress, a responsive website, that is viewable on smartphones, tablets and desktops, was created to provide online access to the content. Users may also access the content via the augmented reality interface, which is free to download on their mobile devices, to find and navigate towards the study sites while on-location and access the information about each site.
SOILx allows learners to undertake self-guided field trips and take advantage of experiential, hands-on learning at a real life field location combined with access to virtual content about that specific location. Learners stay connected to the physical world via their natural senses (e.g., touch, vision, smell) while at the same time having access to, and interacting with, digital information specific to their field location.
A number of target audiences including students, soil scientists and professionals, land managers and even avid gardeners can input information for more geographical sites that can expand this network across the Canada and the world, connecting people interested in soils.