In this episode we talk with Puteri Sofia, who’s been designing augmented reality (AR) into a somewhat unconventional setting in higher education: a law course at Taylor’s University in Malaysia. Sofia explains how she started using AR in and out of the classroom to engage her students with the notoriously heavy material in the domain, and where she sees the role of technology in the faculty for the coming years. We also consider the relationship between teaching and support staff, from designers to technology experts, who are increasingly seeing the need to work together and learn from each other as course content and teaching approaches are being redefined.
Welcome to the Learning Experience Lab, where we're analyzing the best practices in education, and interviewing the innovators who are pushing it forward. I'm your host, Dan Hasan, and I'm investigating the position and possibilities of technology in teaching and learning. In episode 6 today I was able to speak to Sofia Amirnuddin of Taylor's University, Malaysia, who has been pioneering the use of augmented reality in law lectures. I say pioneering because in the domain of legal education, Sofia appears to be one of the first, certainly in Malaysia, to have used this technology in a formal setting. We also had just enough time to talk more generally about the place of new technology in the classroom and for faculties and institutions as a whole. As someone who's carried out several projects with AR in biology education, where its appearance is most prevalent, I was intrigued to say the least about how such a distant discipline could even be approached. Well it turns out Sofia has been striding along that path for quite some time, and I hugely appreciated having the chance to find out more. I hope you'll also enjoy the conversation that follows.
[Dan] So you've spoken at quite some events, published numerous articles, and I saw that you've been called the next role model in law. Could you tell me a bit about how you got here and how you achieved this success?
[Sofia] It all started way back in 2017, Taylor's University announced that they will be providing elearning ground. So that's where it got me thinking. I would like to innovate on how I teach law. It is there I'm not sure. What should I do? So I attended a lot of seminars, workshops, training, and I learned so much about the use of Prezi and Nearpod. I realized, these are all the things that lectures are already using. So it's nothing new. And then one day my colleagues were talking behind me about augmented reality. So then I asked them, what is this augmented reality? And how do you use it in education? So one of my colleagues explained, and then another one said, you can never use it for law, it's impossible. It's meant for something that you can see you can touch using your five senses to when law is an abstract subject. So don't bother using it. Now I’m like wait a minute, I haven't even tried. So why do you see that? So I did a little bit of research. Actually, I did a lot of research about AR. And then I found a few platforms, Layar and Zipcar. So that's when I started to play around with these two platforms. And when I first used it in 2017, guess what? It went horribly wrong, because students were so surprised with the use of new technologies in learning law, especially when law students are so comfortable with memorizing, so when I use AR, today, they totally hate it. So that's when I restructured in the following semester. And that's where everything took off from there.
[Dan] Thanks. And if I think about how I've encountered AR, it's really favored among biology, teachers, chemistry teachers who want to, as you say, visualize, sometimes invisible, unfamiliar, distant concepts. So I'm really interested in how you've been using augmented reality in your law lectures.
[Sofia] So because law, you can't see the things, and I teach English law, which is one of the most challenging and driest modules students cannot really relate to it. So what I did was, I recorded my lecture. And then after that, I embedded it into this layer app. So students are required to go outside the campus, and then find certain objects. And when they found that particular objects so they would need need to scan it, that's where my face will appear, because I cannot have law appearing on the platform. So that's where I start explaining about that particular topic. So while the students are outside on campus, and then they learn on the go, so in the video itself, students are required to do certain challenging activities. So they actually enjoyed it because they can interact with strangers, even though it's during lecture period. So what sort of objects would they have to find out and about? So the use of AR requires an object such as a poster or an image, we call it a trigger or marker. So what I use is because that time, my knowledge on using AR was quite basic. So what I did was I, I'll design a poster. So that's where students will need to find that particular poster for them to scan and then for the object to be embedded on their mobile phone.
[Dan] Okay. And this started in 2017, which is a few years ago now. How has your strategy with AI changed over the time?
[Sofia] So what happened was because I started putting posters all around campus, it has attracted a lot of attention. From lecturers from other schools, they were wondering what is Sofia is doing, allowing your students to go outside your classroom and approaching strangers to one of the lecture from a faculty of design approach me and us are Sofia, we have a team who can assist to develop a special mobile app for you, where you can design your own AR so would you be interested in it? Heck, of course. Yes. So we calibrated it. And then after it was locked down, we cannot launch it outside on campus itself. So we had to tweak it and then make sure whatever objects that students can scan, it has to be in their home environment.
[Dan] Okay, so what features of this AR strategy do you think were more engaging or attractive to students as compared to the traditionally dry delivery of home material?
[Sofia] So what I tried to encourage my students when it comes to learning law using AR, is because the legal profession in Malaysia is actually embracing digitalization, they're already started to automate their work, they incorporated a lot of new types of technologies. That's when it got me thinking, I don't think my students are prepared enough for their future world of work. So I thought if I introduce them with AR, so when they embark on their future world of work, they will have new technologies to bring them bring with them. So that then the lawyers will be very intrigued with graduates from Taylor's University. So that's what I thought the use of AR for my law students.
[Dan] That's very nice, giving your students the opportunity to not just carry with them the content of the lecture, but also this skill, which will be transplantable and attractive. The more that digitization happens, you talked about the digitization of the law profession in Malaysia. How does that look? What's that picture? Exactly?
[Sofia] So now there's a lot of discussions regarding legal technology. So it's no longer lawyers doing actual groundwork doing research, there are plethora of platforms that can ease lawyers in doing all this research, classification of information, or even extracting information from other offices in other states. So as a lecturer, I'm very concerned with regards to the role of my students, whether or not there'll be jobs for them in the future, given that lawyers are investing millions into developing either their own platforms or purchasing third party applications.
[Dan] Okay. And in terms of AR itself, have things like inclusivity, and accessibility come to your mind when you're designing lessons using this technology?
[Sofia] Right? Yes, definitely, I want to make sure that all students will be able to use and appreciate augmented reality itself. So that's when I'll make sure whenever I use Layar or Zipper, it's usually free for the students to use. So for Layar or the university because I managed to get the elearning grant from the university, so University purchase certain pages for me to develop it. But then in 2019, Layar no longer offered the AR services. So that's where I switch to zepa. And then Ziper provides a free trial, you can use augmented reality services five times for free, so it's good for myself as well as for my students.
[Dan] Okay, so you made reference to your face and hearing audio. What is the experience like for a student who's scanned one of these triggers?
[Sofia] Surprisingly, my students throughout the lockdown period, they became extremely creative. So they are able to both work in groups, even though each and every one of them are homebound. So they came up with a very interactive poster, where, because the team because how I provide the assignment question was in a secret agent style. So they took the role very seriously. So when they incorporated their video onto the poster to do the AR effect, so they will really immerse with the secret agent rule. So when they advocate about the law, they really take the presentation very seriously. So students who are excited with the use of AR, and what I usually do as a lecturer to encourage as well as advocate about the use of AR, our showcase student poster or on campus. So that's where the public can scan, and learn AR through students' presentations as well.
[Dan] Wonderful. There's so many things we could talk about here. I've also mentioned gamification. And when you mentioned this secret agent style, a deductive it comes to mind, which is weaving a narrative into learning. When you're designing these lessons. Are you thinking about things like making a narrative? Or does creativity come first? What's the process a little bit when you're designing these things? What do you want to get out of it?
[Sofia] Okay, so because it all started because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I couldn't sleep for a couple of nights because I was thinking, how can students learn skills that can fully equip them for them to be confident enough to work in a law firm because I know my students will be able to memorise, I know my student were able to know the law, but when it comes to skills, so how can we assess their skills while I'm at home and in their, at their home, so that's when I have this idea to do like a secret agent team, where even the assignment itself, there will be like a Mission Impossible soundtrack. So I'll verbally mention the assignment questions, and students will need to actually write it down the assignment wave so nothing is written. So to the students, their listening ability or being assessed their ability to summarise the questions are also being assessed. At least it's a good technique to get students to occupy themselves, even though they are homebound at their current place.
[Dan] Indeed, and the teaching of skills as opposed to remembering memorising information, I think that's something that's made more difficult with the distance from COVID. So what are some of the ways where you've tried to keep track and have an overview of the fact that students are still able to develop these skills?
[Sofia] So that's where the gamification comes in, even though my technological skills are not as advanced to my other colleagues in the School of Design. So what I did was I prepared an Excel sheet throughout the semester, where students' assets will be recorded every week, so that students themselves can see their progress from day one, all the way until week, week 14. So it's good in a way where I, as a lecturer, can monitor student's performance and students themselves will go to keep track of their performance throughout my class.
[Dan] Okay, and how are these skills divided up and measured? For instance, what sort of skills are recorded in the first place? And then what criteria do you use to assess to see whether they've been met, so we speak of skills?
[Sofia] So we try to align it with the learning outcome for my particular module, I'll be assessing students on their technological skills. So that's where the use of AR comes in student's ability to work in groups, as well as students' ability to communicate on specific areas of law effectively. So for my school, Taylor’s law school has designed a rubric, which is aligned to the module learning outcomes. So that's how I assess students. And students themselves can see very detailed feedback with regards to the performance so that they can improve for other modules as well.
[Dan] So it seems like you've been really integrating this technology in a way which I mean, from what I've seen, this hasn't really been done before. Have you had other inspirations or role models in the field? Or is this something that you've really pioneered by yourself?
[Sofia] Because as a lecturer, I also do research and write papers. So when I do a lot of research with regards to augmented reality, it is actually being widely used in education in many areas, etc. So that's why I wanted to be the first one, at least in Malaysia to use augmented reality to teach law modules. And I'm blessed to have the support from my university from my students. And I've also been given the opportunity to present how I teach law using AR at University of Leeds as well as University of Redding. And it has also been recognised as one of the top learning assessments at the QS Wharton Reimagine awards last year.
[Dan] You've obviously seen firsthand how AR can be used effectively, for student performance and skill development in the classroom. In your mind, where does this transformation need to go in the future? And what place do you see technology, specifically AR?
[Sofia] So when I use AR, it's usually outside the classroom. Because it was the first time I used AR in the classroom. That's where you went horribly wrong. Because when you project my face, and I'm there in the classroom, so that's where students wonder what Sofia is doing. So it's good to use it outside the classroom. And moving forward. I hope the use of AR especially relating to law can be used to advocate the latest law to the society to the public. So I have plans for example, when there're accident cases, or people can use their mobile phone and then scan their cards and information relating to law will appear on their mobile phone or when a person scans a particular logo of a law firm. Their information relating to a project on a mobile phone. So I hope this kind of transformation will happen in the future. And I hopefully assume that's one of my aspirations as well.
[Dan] Okay, maybe a bit more of a technical question. But what's the benefit of having an augmented reality projection, as opposed to a simple display on a screen inside the screen.
[Sofia] So when it comes to AR, people, usually remember things when they see it. Most of my learners, they are visual learners. So if you can see something that is interactive, something that is moving an image as well, so they tend to remember better instead of reading, sometimes you just need 30 seconds to view certain things, and you get the all information instead of reading through. For more information, so so that's one of the best feature of augmented reality.
[Dan] I'd like to define more critically, what the benefit is of being able to project these things into our real space. What is it that makes something appearing in our, in our real world, even if it's a projection, more engaging, more interesting than seeing it just on the mobile phone screen or on a laptop screen?
[Sofia} Because nowadays, our users are mobile phones, they are attached to their phones all the time. So if there's any interactions with the mobile phone, that's where they can get three more information better. So as compared to other services, providers that only provide this normal projection of image or information, people tend to prefer our best from the data that I gather for my survey, do you prefer something that's moving, something that's more interactive and engaging. So that's how they learn better, especially for my students. I've also presented this to students from other universities just to get their level of interest with regards to the innovation they use. And they are also curious in terms of the application of AR, when it comes to moving objects, having to able to see human being instead of just reading through words or documents.
[Dan] Indeed, and from the research also appears as you mentioned, the interactivity plays a large part with a special importance on being able to manipulate something, being able to manipulate something on a 2d plane is one level. But when you can almost hold something in your hands and rotate and enlarge it. That's another level, another dimension of interactivity.
[Sofia] Yes, that's right. And students become more curious. And they will get hooked to learn more about that particular object. So that's what I like with the use of AR and sometimes our students will become much more creative and and start to start to think beyond just augmented reality. They will ask me, Sofia, can we do this instead of just this one? So it's good to get students thinking while they're using the app?
[Dan] What are the challenges to integrating this technology as a mainstream tool in education?
[Sofia] To be honest, to integrate augmented reality into any field or into education, it's not cheap, and it also requires special expertise. So that's the reason to calibrate with the lecture from another school because I have no expertise in developing my own augmented reality, I had to rely either on Layar or Zepir to utilise it. So for other lectures, if they want to embed augmented reality, they can start with the basic one with the use of Zapar or Layar or any other web platform. But for them to you know, like develop 3D objects such as Earth, or sun or moving table, like how Google or aka is doing. It requires a team and it requires time. But I hope moving forward, all these costs will become much cheaper and can be integrated in all modules. Regardless of the discipline.
[Dan] That's definitely something I encountered when trying to develop these 3d projections of, as you mentioned, planets, moons, that the physical models weren't available. And so that became the biggest roadblock towards wanting to project this information, but not having access to a library of assets. So in terms of how technology can support education, what roles you see in technological support, and education moving forwards. Do you think that teachers will become more reliant on technology on support staff? Or will they eventually have to learn to be able to do these things more by themselves?
[Sofia] So for short term, I think universities or any education providers should invest in creating or having a specialised team of those in the IT section in order to provide support to all lectures in different faculties. Because without this special support, lecturers cannot really progress to provide advanced use of technologies, we are limited with the platforms that are available freely on the website. But in terms of developing our own, we definitely need either the support of having a specialty or support from getting grants from other organisations. So that's one. But in the long term, our lecturers, once they have received all the support, then they should be able to acquire detailed or in depth skills in order to sustain the use of these technologies. Because to me, I personally prefer if I can use everything myself without the need to disturb others. But I'm also mindful of educators who are at a much more mature level and cannot adapt faster in terms of the use of technology. So of course, they require more support and continuous support in the long run.
[Dan] And these support teams, to what extent should they be involved in the pedagogy and the domain of the teachers they're helping? Or is it possible to have supporters instructional designers, with purely the technological and design knowledge, but none of the teaching knowledge? Where do you see that relationship?
[Sofia] It's good if you can have a designer who can assist us with the instructional design as well as pedagogy, but based on my experience, because usually all these developers, their skills are more focused towards designing stuff. So if I ask them to present with me at conferences, they cannot do that; they are not confident with presenting their own presentation skill, as well as when it comes to designing a new type of assessment. They really cannot. I mean, from my experience, they can't contribute much, because they're from different disciplines. So they have no idea on how they can support me in terms of assessment for low modules.
[Dan] Makes sense. And one of the things that I've run into with instructional design and cost setup is that now keeping in mind that IT support and course design support is emerging as a larger field. And indeed, the teams are growing universities, that adds an overarching scale, support is good, and it's available. But when it comes to domain specific cost designs, feedback setups, sometimes the support is lacking, or not able to do its job properly. So I've been wondering how specialised supporters need to be in order to help teachers to their full degree?
[Sofia] I suppose if we have a support team assigned to each faculty, so if we train them, so they can actually provide more deeper support in relation to pedagogies, in terms of assessment or instructional design, because at the moment, they're just another lecturer or teaching subject on augmented reality. So his knowledge in terms of assisting also, it's limited to certain extent as well.
[Dan] Okay. Well, thanks for your insights there, I want to take a little bit of a different look now. And that's the digitization of learning at Taylor’s University specifically. So would you be able to tell me a little bit about how the institution faced COVID, how it reacts to the changes around the world, and maybe some of the changes that are implemented in order to address these needs?
[Sofia] So at Taylor's University, the lecturers fortunately, I would say well prepared, because when we first encountered SARS, back in 2012, so that's where all of us were shocked University and schools had to be closed down, and no one had knowledge to deliver their learning online. So that's where the University invested a lot of resources for lectures or to learn how to record ourselves and upload all these videos on the Moodle platform. And even for myself, when I first recorded my own lecture, I'll only record my voice because I don't like to see how I look when I'm delivering a lecture. So but over time when all lectures build their confidence, that's where the university will provide more workshops on how to record videos using Rewind on the go. And now they subscribe to a new platform called Panopto. So it's an enhanced version of Rewind on the go. So it's good, because lectures can record a video, and at the same time, embed quizzes just like H5P, and also introduce YouTube video as part of the lecture video. So it assists students when it comes to learning remotely.
[Dan] So you've really been preparing for this kind of situation since 2012. I wonder if you could tell me what were the most valuable lessons you learned for being able to deliver, let's say, online lectures, pre recorded lectures?
[Sofia] Well, to me number one important thing is to have support from your colleague, especially I'm mindful when we have a lot of new lecturers, who's from a different background have no knowledge in terms of how to lecture to university students, and suddenly you join Taylor's University during COVID-19 pandemic, you get to deliver materials online, so you require continuous support. So as a lecturer, I believe it's my role to educate, as well as empower other educators to embrace online learning. So what I'll do is whatever new techniques or new technology that I learned, so all either informed via email to my colleagues, or I write an article, and I'll publish it on Linkedin, or in marketing in Asia website, so that all lectures instead of taking your student by reading the article, within 30 seconds, you have new knowledge about new platforms, or new pedagogy.
[Dan] Incredible. And of those new platforms and technologies. Has there been anything that surprised you that's gone beyond your expectations?
[Sofia] Honestly, Feedback fruits, because other platforms that I use, they have a lot of this H five p element or towards the lecture video itself, which I've already been using for a couple of years. But our current issue when it comes to students' critical analysis, that's where I noticed, because when the exam had become online, students tend to copy paste the answer from the website. So when I mark their answer script, to be honest, I feel quite frustrated, because all answers look quite similar. So we had a discussion among the Head of School, the programme directors, as well as other colleagues on how to increase students critical analysis. And when we implemented it, the result is still the same students tend to look for information on the internet, and then copy and paste on their answers. So when I came across the FeedbackFruits, that's when I realised it's really good to critically assess my students' thinking. So when I do the activity, if they're unable to answer that particular question, they cannot move on to the second page. So they didn't really need to think in order to answer that particular question.
[Dan] Great. I was just about to ask you, because we've been talking a little bit already about interactive document. And when you bring up critical thinking skills and the development and students, I wanted to know what features of FeedbackFruits tools had appeal to you had caught your attention. And especially this locking off parts of the text is a way to help structure and guide students through a particular trajectory. But are there other things perhaps in a more general sense about feedback fruits that supports your style of teaching?
[Sofia] So there's also another feature with regards to group work, where students can work in groups, and then utilise features on feedback foods on how to assess students' performance? At Taylor's law school, there have been a lot of discussions on peer review, but we have never implemented it because we really do not know how. And just to find out that feedback, food has this feature of Peer Review, it becomes really helpful as well as insightful for us in terms of how students can assess each other, and as a lecturer, how we can use the information to provide marks to the students.
[Dan] And in general, what position or relationship do you see tools like feedback fruits having in relation to the wider pedagogy at the institution?
[Sofia] I think moving forward, it will be very good. If any teaching pedagogy can be supplemented with the use of latest technologies, why do I say latest technologies because all of us have heard of Kahoot as well as Quizzes, and this pedagogy you cannot use throughout the years of studies because students will get bored. I've personally experienced it when I use scaffold in first class, I cannot use it in the second class, because students ask me, don't you have other platforms to use? So I think it's good. If lecturers are aware of new platforms, they can advocate and then share their knowledge with other lectures because we do need support with the use of latest technologies in our existing pedagogy.
[Dan] Okay, but if a technology is really good, then is it better to keep using it? Or to have a novel tool which might have a more spike of interest effect on the students? Are there tools? Are there technologies, which are so good that you don't need to replace them?
[Sofia] So it depends what you mean by very good, because if it's very good, and very interactive, and you have different features in one platform, then I don't mind using it in the long run. But if there's only one platform, one feature, then even though it's a good price, only good for that one particular class, I cannot use the same activity to the same group. I can use it for another one.
[Dan] Is there anything else you'd like to talk about or discuss here today?
[Sofia] I would like to express my appreciation to Henrique for sharing our knowledge with regards to feedback. Because I really have never accounted for any platforms such as this. I really hope I can use it to my students in this current semester. And I hope that I can get support from Taylor's university to describe this for my colleagues at Taylor's as well.
[Dan] Well, let's hope they're listening. Thanks very much.
[Sofia] Thank you.
An enormous thank-you to Sofia for letting us take a look into an exciting and emerging world. And let's just see where other lecturers, designers, and researchers can take AR and education. Especially where things like gamification, narrative, and interaction can be taken advantage of to the benefit of the teacher and the student. What I loved about Sofia's story is that the content of the law lectures was not being replaced through technology, but reframed, and it seemed to have been a resounding success. Big thanks to Henrique at FeedbackFruits for bringing us into contact. And thanks to you, listener, for joining us for another experiment in the Learning Experience Lab. If you've got comments, queries or questions I would love to hear them! Thanks for your ideas so far about potential guests, how we can improve and expand, and your general support. I hope you are already seeing the fruits of your feedback!
Remember, you can stay up to date with the podcast and everything else happening at FeedbackFruits by following us on social media, and you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch directly. Until next time, take care and thanks for joining us in the Learning Experience Lab!
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Dan is an (almost) graduate of science communication and education who lives for learning. For a year he has been investigating course design case studies around the world and is now trying his hand at this new format of gathering and sharing insights and ideas.
Guest - Puteri Sofia Amirnuddin
Senior lecturer and Chief Project Officer at Taylor's University
Puteri Sofia is a senior lecturer and chief project officer at Taylor’s University in Malaysia. She has published book chapters, journal articles and made numerous paper presentations at conferences about her work.