How easy is it to eXtend Reality? A Usability Study of Authoring Toolkits
Authors: Santawat Thanyadit, Matthias Heintz, Effie L Law, Eleni Mangina
Abstract: Extended Reality (XR) can be a powerful educational tool as it enables students to experience a learning environment combining real-life physical and virtual objects. This combination not only augments what is possible with physical learning material alone but also makes use of the real world as a frame of reference for the digital content. Nonetheless, creating an XR lesson requires technical expertise that can be very challenging for many educators who have no or little relevant background. Hence, support systems like XR Lesson Authoring Toolkits (XRLATK) are needed to empower teachers to create XR lessons effectively and efficiently. XRLATK comprise three main components: authoring tools for teachers to create an XR lesson, viewer tools for students to view the XR lesson, and a platform for content creators (e.g., 3D designers and artists) to add 3D models and animation to be used in the XR lesson. While several surveys have suggested the importance of XRLATK (Radu, 2014, Jensen and Konradsen, 2018, Radianti et al., 2020), only a few XRLATK are available. Designing, developing, and evaluating XRLATK is a highly demanding task that requires careful considerations and inputs from three main groups of stakeholders - students, teachers, and content creators - with each having different priorities and preferences. According to the recent surveys (Heintz et al., 2021), students prefer XR lessons that are interactive, intuitive, and easy to follow whereas teachers prefer usable authoring tools that can help reduce their workload. Based on our observations (Nebeling et al., 2021), content creators prioritize a streamlined method to modify contents with the toolkits and gather requirements from teachers. To enhance their quality and impact, XRLATK must be evaluated from the technical (usability), social (presence), and educational (learning outcomes) perspective. Nonetheless, the related research has targeted students and considered learning outcomes as the primary performance indicator of XRLATK; teachers and content creators are largely neglected in the design and evaluation process.To address this shortcoming, we have been motivated to conduct a usability study for MirageXR, an interactive XRLATK software prototype developed under the auspices of the ARETE project (Augmented Reality Interactive Educational Systems). MirageXR allows teachers to enhance the physical teaching space by putting virtual learning elements like labels, models, and animations at different positions and structure the learning process by guiding students from one learning station to another. This way it gives teachers and students access to innovative XR contents to enhance learning and teaching. It also provides plugin support which enables content creators to extend the software beyond available materials to suit different classroom scenarios.In this paper, we present our research study on evaluating the usability of MirageXR with the mixed-method approach. Participants with heterogeneous higher education backgrounds were asked to assume the role of a secondary school teacher. First, they were introduced to MirageXR through a tutorial, then they were requested to create an XR lesson on the topic of their choice within a set amount of time during which their behaviour and performance were observed. Next, they were asked to provide feedback based on the interaction experience with MirageXR through questionnaires and interviews. Insights gained from the empirical findings could help us improve the design of MirageXR and contribute to building general guidelines for systematic evaluation of XRLATK.
Keywords: Extended Reality, Usability Study, Authoring toolkits
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