How to design citizen science tools for learning

Our long-lasting experience of designing citizen science tools for inquiry learning has now been captured and published free access here. We report on eight design principles that guided the design of the nQuire platform, a citizen inquiry platform empowering people to initiate and complete their own research projects. These are:

  1. users as producers of knowledge,
  2. topics before tools,
  3. mobile affordances,
  4. scaffolds to the process of scientific inquiry,
  5. learning by doingas key message,
  6. being part of a community as key message,
  7. every visit brings a reward,and
  8. value users and their time.

The abstract of the paper copied here: This paper reports on a 4-year research and development case study about thedesign of citizen science tools for inquiry learning. It details the process of iterativepedagogy-led design and evaluation of the nQuire toolkit, a set of web-based andmobile tools scaffolding the creation of online citizen science investigations. Thedesign involved an expert review of inquiry learning and citizen science, combinedwith user experience studies involving more than 200 users. These have informed aconcept that we have termed‘citizen inquiry’, which engages members of the publicalongside scientists in setting up, running, managing or contributing to citizen scienceprojects with a main aim of learning about the scientific method through doing scienceby interaction with others. A design-based research (DBR) methodology was adopted forthe iterative design and evaluation of citizen science tools. DBR was focused on therefinement of a central concept,‘citizen inquiry’, by exploring how it can be instantiatedin educational technologies and interventions. The empirical evaluation and iteration oftechnologies involved three design experiments with end users, user interviews, andinsights from pedagogy and user experience experts. Evidence from the iterativedevelopment of nQuire led to the production of a set of interaction design principlesthat aim to guide the development of online, learning-centred, citizen science projects.Eight design guidelines are proposed: users as producers of knowledge, topics beforetools, mobile affordances, scaffolds to the process of scientific inquiry, learning by doingas key message, being part of a community as key message, every visit brings a reward,and value users and their time.

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