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Augmented Reality: Connecting the classroom and the community

This paper discusses the first stages of a student lead undergraduate research project that looks into the feasibility of augmenting their designs within the community of Manukau, South Auckland, New Zealand. Through the perspective of the students of Visual Communication Design, new technologies usually associated with the concept of augmented reality were explored in order to extend the geographic reach of the student projects beyond the local context of Manukau. The intention of the project was that to have a transformation both in community outreach and in publishing the student’s work into a greater environment outside the classroom.

The project used a design-based research methodology to explore the application of new and existing technologies not used in the current field of visual communication and introduced them into the learning curriculum. The project also looked into what was on offer in terms of application building, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) software, hardware and location aware devices. Using the concept of Visual Poetry and a combination of typography and moving image, the students had to create a range of ideas that spoke back to their chosen area of inspiration.

The students then took this visual content and used mobile augmented reality to link their work in context within their chosen area. In this paper we outline the first stages of the design-based research project, and we argue that augmenting graphic design via mobile AR/VR technologies represents a steep initial learning curve, but the outcomes and creativity enabled by mastering these technologies can greatly enhance the exhibition and impact of students’ graphic design installations. Beginning with simple social media AR/VR via the likes of Google Street view panoramas provides students with a conceptual framework on which to build the integration of these BYOD technologies into their projects. We conclude that utilising an EDR methodology to design the project enables the design of the project to be informed by literature and learning theories, cope with the inherent ‘messiness’ of mobile learning, a high level of evaluation, provide authentic links to the local community, peer-reviewed feedback, and ultimately will lead to a critically redesigned second iteration in 2017.