A GENERAL ARCHITECTURE FOR CONTENT DRIVEN MOBILE APPLICATIONS: BUILDING AN INTERACTIVE TOUR GUIDE FOR HISTORICAL SITES
The goal of this blended learning scenario was to look at the wider area of Aachen in ancient roman times and to interpret the regional role within the historical context. The results of the students work should then be published as an interactive tour guide mobile app. While the chair for ancient history led the lecture and evaluated the contributions by the students the IT Center provided the technical infrastructure to store the content gathered by the students.
The substantially focus was on the different kinds of sources used: The students examined a mining area and a sanctuary in the surroundings of Aachen. Photos and videos of the sites were created and connected to GPS coordinates. Also interviews with experts were conducted. The whole process of gathering media and articles was supported using a web based collaboration platform. This platform mainly consists of three parts:
(1) An online repository to store the media files and metadata gathered by the students
(2) an editor to write articles and arrange the media to be presented to the user and
(3) a web service layer that allows the mobile applications to access the content.
The media files and texts are processed by the mobile application and are then displayed to the user. The metadata stored together with the content is used to perform further automatic processing. In the current case study GPS coordinates were used to show articles and media on a map and display content that is in close proximity to the user. To allow navigation between the different topics the articles were also interlinked with each other.
For the students it proved to be more convenient to write the articles on a traditional computer rather than directly on their mobile device. We therefore designed a "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) editor that provides a low threshold way to compose the articles and at the same time get an impression of the content on a mobile device. However In future versions of the app we would like to incorporate more mobile editing and media management features to further profit from the rising number and capabilities of mobile devices as well as the strong "Bring Your Own Device" BYOD mentality of the students.
The access to the web service layer is secured using the OAuth2 protocol to ensure that only eligible apps can access the content. Furthermore the interface is compatible to Amazons Simple Storage Service (S3) to provide maximum reusability of the application and content. Together with the web service layer an HTML5 template for a cross platform application was developed. This allows easy customization and tailoring to future scenarios and can be published to the app stores of a multitude of vendors like Google Play, iTunes and the Microsoft Store as well as a more traditional web page. In future projects this infrastructure should support various blended learning projects and should make it easier for students from non-technical fields to create and publish content driven mobile applications.
The process of gathering all resources and the results of this slightly different and interdisciplinary lecture with a strong practical relevance is now done. The students overall feedback was very positive. Currently the created content, texts and media is undergoing a last quality assurance step before being published in the app stores.