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Out There In Here

What research questions the project addresses, aims & themes

The 'Out There and In Here' project explores the possibilities for new technologies to support distributed, synchronous collaborations between students in the field, and others based in a stationary location. In our first set of trials, geology fieldwork in a higher education context provided the test domain for design and evaluation of a prototype system, from which wider issues with developing interdependent learning experiences across mobile and static contexts can be identified and analysed.

How the research questions are addressed by the project (methodology and activity/environment)

We developed and evaluated systems to link students using mobile computing devices in the field, connected via mobile telephony or satellite data networks, to students in a 'mission control' style classroom, using an interactive table-top, projected displays and other technologies, supporting access to a range of relevant resources, the review and organisation of data, and the development of hypotheses and reports.

In our first set of trials, geology fieldwork in a higher education context provided the test domain for design and evaluation of a prototype system, from which wider issues with developing interdependent learning experiences across mobile and static contexts could be identified and analysed. Our second round of trials involved improving public engagement with the MillRoadCemetery in Cambridge by enabling three different community groups to enjoy and learn more about the monuments, wildlife and local history in the historical cemetery site.

Findings and outputs

The trials have highlighted the potential value of this type of activity for both learning and research. The system does not replicate many aspects of a field trip for those indoors, instead interactions between the In Here and Out There teams, who have different foci and resources, provoke novel reflections and findings at both sites.

In contrast to textbook learning or virtual field trips, collaboration between the teams allows the In Here team to guide and affect data collection and analysis, making them deal with the complexity of data from real world environments, while the Out There team is able to focus on the information that is available to communicate to the In Here team and how to do this effectively. Questions and information shared by the In Here team provoked thinking, action and discoveries by the Out There team that would not otherwise have occurred, such as the discovery of an error on a map of a rock face.

Project impact

  1. SOCIETY & KNOWLEDGE: OTIH research initiated practice debates with policy makers within Higher Education, Government and research funders: Invited Keynote at HM Government Instinct (Innovation Science and Technology IN Counter Terrorism) TD3 showcase led by Logica; Invited presentation & discussions with David Sweeney Director of HEFCE research, innovation and skills; Presentation to director of Wolfsen research.
  2. ECONOMY: We used systems and our understanding for a follow on user & public engagement / impact project with colleagues from Spain, Cambridge Council, Cambridge Public history groups, Anglian Ruskin University and local schools. This involved further industrial collaborations with the SME Stride Design and again Microsoft Research.
  3. CAPABILITY: OTIH research inspired international and interdisciplinary colleagues to collaborate on further funding proposal with a successful EU network bid on surface elearning, a successful RCUK 'catalyst' public engagement bid, a successful Wolfson bid and 2 other elearning EU proposals.
  4. KNOWLEDGE: Findings led to 8 papers - 6 international and national conferences, 1 International Journal and 1 international magazine article (with 3 more journal papers in the pipeline for the computing, education and geographic domains).
  5. CAPABILITY: OTIH research led to a successful Open University funded follow on studentship proposal between science and the institute of education on GIS in teaching and learning, it also enabled collaborations between Ordinance Survey and the OU in a studentship proposal to the HEA on 'Educational technology to enhance sustainable development in HE'.


Local connections: designing technologies for discovery and creativity within the community - An article included in ACM Interactions Magazine, Jan-Feb 2012, describing the Mill Road Discovery Project in Cambridge.

Enabling Live Dialogic and Collaborative Learning between Field and Indoor Contexts - A full paper on the geoscience-based trials performed in August 2010, accepted for inclusion in the BCS HCI 2011 conference

Adams, A., Coughlan. T., Rogers, Y., Collins, T., Davies, S., Blake, C., Lea, J., (2011) Live linking of fieldwork to the laboratory increases students inquiry based reflections, Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning.

Adams, A., Coughlan, T., Lea, J., Rogers, Y., Davies, S. & Collins, T. (2011) Designing Interconnected Distributed Resources for Collaborative Inquiry Based Science Education , Proceedings of the IEEE/ACM Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL)

Working with 'Mission Control in Scientific Fieldwork - A more recent short paper describing some results and directions, accepted as an Interactive Paper for CSCW 2011.

Designing for Balance: Out There and In Here - A short paper describing the aims and plans for the project along with some of the major issues identified so far. This was written for and presented at British HCI 2010 in September 2010.


Fieldwork, collaboration, communication, technology

People involved

Anne Adams, IET
Trevor Collins, KMI
Tim Coughlan, IET
Sarah Davies, Earth Sciences
John Lea
Yvonne Rogers
Steve Swithenby

Project partners and links

The Open University

Abigail Sellen at Microsoft & OOKL (the Sea)



The Sea (OOKL software)

Start Date and duration

31 March 2010 - 1 January 2012

Research & Innovation