About

This project will develop wearable technologies that will enhance our awareness of student communities in an era of increasing online provision, where students ‘attend’ the university but not necessarily the campus itself. The University currently offers a considerable number of online distance programmes, representing a significant community of students that are unable to benefit from current internationalisation projects based locally, and limited in the kinds of interactions they can have with the university and the wider student community. Similarly, our campus-based students are unable to take advantage of important opportunities for cultural exchange with this diverse – yet distanced – international cohort. With inter-disciplinary expertise from the School of Education, Design Informatics and Architecture, this project will conduct participatory workshops that will give students a voice in designing new technologies to bridge this gap. Wearable networked devices will be developed to foster ‘ambient awareness’ of the international student community: a peripheral appreciation of learning ‘at’ Edinburgh, yet not always present within the campus or the city. These devices will develop research on the ‘quantified self’ and the notion of ‘smart’ educational institutions, as well as offering critical perspectives on surveillance and privacy related to the increasing capture of student data.

Online and distance university provision is increasing, and growing numbers in the student community are studying ‘at’ an institution, yet never travelling to the campus or the city itself (Bayne et al. 2014). At the University of Edinburgh 66 online postgraduate programmes are currently offered, alongside the expanding array of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). A considerable number of ‘international’ learners are therefore distanced from the campus, unable to benefit from current internationalisation projects based locally that seek to provide a ‘unique and vibrant on-campus international experience’ (www.ed.ac.uk/edinburgh-global).

The richness and intensity of campus life is often taken for granted. Yet physical co-location, visible in the bustle between lectures or the queues for coffee, create a peripheral awareness of the university community, and a crucially important ‘sense’ of the diverse yet shared pursuit of learning that ties the university together. Such interactions contribute to the development of effective student cohorts – students as co-learners. While not directly related to study or attainment, this kind of co-presence is associated with the important educational benefits of campus life (Astin, 1984, Pascarella et al. 1994) that enhance ‘students’ involvement and engagement with their institutions’ (López Turley 2010, p506).
This project therefore seeks to develop new and innovative ways of creating an ‘ambient awareness’ (Thompson 2008) of the broader global space of the university community, connecting distant online students and those located at the campus, and in these ways explore ‘global citizenship in the student population’ (www.ed.ac.uk/edinburgh-global).
The project asks:

How can new understandings of the student experience be developed in an era of distance online provision and distributed university communities?
How can Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, wearable devices, and a ‘smart institution’ contribute to the research of internationalisation in higher education?
How can research of the ‘quantified self’ inform critical approaches to issues of surveillance and privacy?