OMLETH (ortsbezogenes, mobiles Lernen an der ETH) allows situated learning with smartphones or tablets outside in the field. Lecturers on space-related subject areas can design geographically isolated tasks as a so-called learning track, which students can use their smartphones to call up and execute on-site via GPS.
Courses in many study programs at ETH Zurich feature learning content which is related to places in the real world. This applies especially to Architecture, Civil Engineering, and System-Oriented Natural Sciences. Teaching this content in the classroom often remains decoupled and distant from the typical working environment of the respective discipline. At the same time, learning with an authentic and real problem would be an important part of teaching at ETH Zurich.
The learning platform OMLETH of the chair of geoinformation engineering is based on the approach of learning at stations and has been transformed into a real world form – the so-called learning track. It consists of an editor for lecturers and a learner webapp for the students.
The editor interface offers the lecturers a browser-supported app for a desktop computer for the creation of a location-based learning tasks that can be spatially positioned using an interactive map. The design leaves the lecturer a great choice from the exclusive use of the OMLETH text functions to the embedding of web-based resources from learning management systems, image and audio and video platforms.
The learner webapp interface launches the learning tracks. Students run them alone or in groups.
Access to the tasks is controlled by localization (including GPS receiver). Students must be on-site to gain access. These tasks may include only instructional text, audio or video assignments, or may include observation and reflection assignments with documentaries, photographs and films on-site. Embedded chats like WhatsApp allows students to exchange information with other students and the lecturer regardless of location.
Situated learning is learning that takes place in the same context in which it is applied.
It motivates active learning and allows highly interactive and constructivist elaboration and application of learning content. OMLETH supports key competencies for the 21st century:
Creativity: Students discover and experience learning content in a constructivist way. Students solve real problems on the ground and need creativity and problem-solving skills.
Collaboration: Students learn self-regulated in groups to socialize as a group, organizationally to create a common rhythm and to divide content tasks among each other.
Critical Thinking: Students experience the phenomena on site on various channels in unique and personal contexts. Therefore, the contents are often slightly modified from the ideal, which promotes critical engagement, questioning, and reflection on the subject.
Communication: Self-regulating students in groups exchange information with each other, comment, reflect and evaluate their discoveries without the examining expert’s presence. This can lead to a more open and relaxed communication among the students.
Experience with OMLETH shows that learning not only challenges and encourages the cognitive level, but also activates affective and motivational competences. Thanks to the experience reference, students can retrieve the content for a long time later, which makes OMLETH a tool for sustainable learning.