New Modalities and Techniques of Augmented Reality in STEM Education
Emerging technologies in the classroom are paving the way towards high-quality, hands-on distance learning. Augmented Reality (AR), which overlays virtual information into the physical world, provides a promising solution for the development and delivery of collaborative educational content. Frameworks such as ARkit, ARCore, have enabled AR experiences to become available to a wider audience. However, there are still several challenges to implementing an AR-based curriculum in classrooms, such as difficulty to create AR content, lack of an architecture capable of supporting collaboration between users, and questions about the user experience. This thesis introduces the MetaAR project, a series of solutions to enable instructors and designers to prototype AR experiences in collaborative and distant classrooms. We designed and tested interactive systems, each targeted towards solving a different problem: (1) MetaAR, an augmented reality authoring platform for instructors and students; (2) RobotAR, a robotics toolkit to create augmented reality-based makerspaces; (3) ColabAR, a toolkit for quick-prototyping of Tangible Augmented Reality (TAR) laboratories; (4) Grove-Blockly, a website with a STEAM curriculum involving IoTs, crafting and coding aimed at middle-schoolers; (5) Towards Modeling of Human Skilling for Electrical
Circuitry using Augmented Reality Applications, which provides a model to cluster microskills found in AR (perceptual, cognitive, motor) and aligns them to educational content design for AR. Our preliminary results, obtained from user studies involving more than 120 participants, provide evidence of the sustainability and the positive reception of our prototypes in learning environments. We demonstrated an improvement in several of students’ key competencies and in the overall user experience for both instructors and students. Our hope is that this thesis provides a pathway towards more natural interactions and advances in our understanding of distance learning technology, which is becoming increasingly important in today's society.