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Originally published: Safran, C.; Ebner, M.; Garcia-Barrios, V. M.; Kappe, F.

Higher Education M-Learning and E-Learning Scenarios for a Geospatial Wiki. - in: E-Learn - World Conference
on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009)

Higher Education m-Learning and e-Learning Scenarios

for a Geospatial Wiki
Christian Safran
Institute for Information Systems and Computer Media,
Graz University of Technology

Martin Ebner
Social Learning / Computer and Information Services
Graz University of Technology

Victor Manuel García-Barrios

Institute for Information Systems and Computer Media,
Graz University of Technology

Frank Kappe
Institute for Information Systems and Computer Media,
Graz University of Technology

Abstract: Several fields of higher education, like geology, architecture, or civil engineering, rely
on visual information in the context of learning, a considerable part of it moreover location-based.
Geotagging, a phenomenon recently spreading through he online and mobile world, offers
innovative possibilities to support teachers and learners in such fields. One such approach is the
composition of geotagged information with a collaborative environment – a so-called geowiki. A
prototype for an educational geowiki, TUGeoWiki, has been developed at Graz University of
Technology. This publications outlines possible application scenarios for TUGeoWiki in higher
education, taking into account e-Learning as well as m-Learning scenarios.

In the last months a remarkable movement towards geo-locating software occurred and maybe this is one of the next
trends in the online world. Nowadays more and more cell phones are equipped with a GPS-receiver. Examples
include Nokia N95, Apple’s iPhone and the G1. The main intention was to bring the possibility for navigation on
mobile devices, but simultaneously a new phenomenon appeared, which is called geotagging.
Geotagging allows users to add global coordinates to their pictures or to track positions of their cell phones. This
information is used by software (for example Locr 1) or online services (for example Google Latitude2) to enhance
online information by exact positions. Beside discussions about ethics or privacy this additional information also
offers new possibilities for teaching and learning. Especially for such learning fields, which are strongly based on
geo-located information, like biology, geology, civil engineering, architecture and some more, lecturing achieves a
new dimension.
Furthermore by combining typical Web 2.0 technologies and geo-location possibilities a further contribution to e-
Learning 2.0, as defined by Stephen Downes (Downes 2005), can be achieved. Wikis offer an easily useable tool for
1, accessed 2009-04-28
2, accessed 2009-04-28
Originally published: Safran, C.; Ebner, M.; Garcia-Barrios, V. M.; Kappe, F.:
Higher Education M-Learning and E-Learning Scenarios for a Geospatial Wiki. - in: E-Learn - World Conference
on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009)
online collaboration and mashups provide a technology of joining contents from various sources to enhance the
available knowledge base. In this paper we present an idea how geo-located information can enhance lecturing in
Higher Education.

The role of Visual and Geotagged Information in Learning

The main idea is to bring the work on-site or in-field back to the lecture room and keep the learners on collaborating.
The research work is based mainly on two ideas:

(1) Visual and geotagged information enhances education in several fields

(2) Collaboration and sharing enhances the learning outcome

In subjects like civil engineering, geology, architecture etc. education is strongly based on visual information. Brohn
(Brohn 1983) pointed out that the “language of intuition is visual, just as the language of analysis is abstract and
symbolic.” In several research activities we were able to point out the importance of visualisations, animations, as
well as interactions for civil engineering (Ebner and Holzinger 2003; Holzinger and Ebner 2005; Ebner, Scerbakov
et al. 2006). Especially for explanations of highly complex engineering models new technologies offered a
completely different way of teaching and learning. Still visualisations lacked at one particular point: The connection
of the abstract engineering model and the real world. The major competence of any practical engineer is to abstract
an appropriate model from nature to develop a quantifiable mathematical model. This shows that the knowledge
about the particular environment where a building will be placed is highly important. Different geological
behaviours lead to different building measurements.
According to (1) there is an obvious need to enhance learning material, especially pictures and real-life simulations,
by global coordinates to combine engineering models and reality.
Furthermore if learners collect real-life material there is mostly no possibility to share and collaborate on it. Bearing
in mind the power of Web 2.0 technologies, wikis seem to be an appropriate tool for exchange between high
numbers of learners. Lot of different research work carried out that wikis can successfully be applied in education
(Augar, Raitman et al. 2004; Caddick 2006; Ebner, Kickmeier-Rust et al. 2008). Wikis in general highly support the
characteristics communication, collaboration and contribution to a pool of knowledge. Depending on the degree of
freedom as well as the possibilities of active contributions within a learning community successful learning occurs
(Bruns and Humphrey 2005; Mitchell, Chen et al. 2005). Furthermore there is an impact for graduates on
cooperative developing new knowledge as solving problems (Kirschner, Van Vilsteren et al. 1997).
From a learning research perspective the TUGeoWiki project presented in this publication aims to collect various
types of learning material, which were taken on-site or in the field by visualising the global coordinate on Google
Maps automatically in any contributions. By using the mashup technology (Tuchinda, Szekely et al. 2008) content
and location can be shared by teachers as well as students and instead of writing essays for their own learners they
share their experiences, pictures and observations online in a number of articles.
In this publication we would like to address the following research question: How can a geowiki be used for
lecturing in Higher Education?

TUGeoWiki – a Collaborative Tool for Geotagged Information

As shown in the preceding chapter, learning in certain fields like Geology can benefit from the integration
of geospatial with visual information.
Another technology enhanced learning approach proven to enhance especially informal learning is the
application of Wikis as collaborative online tools (Granitzer, Stocker et al. 2008). Wikis are a technology developed
by Leuf and Cunningham in 1995 (Leuf and Cunningham 2001). They are designed to provide a simple tool for
knowledge management, with users being able to collaboratively create and edit pages. Another of the central
aspects of a Wiki is the revision history tracing every modification to a specific user. Recently, tools like wikis are
being used to support collaborative aspects in e-Learning (Fucks-Kittowski, Köhler et al. 2004).
The potential integration of the two concepts of geospatial (visual) information and collaborative work with
a Wiki in order to enhance learning performance and experience has been researched at the Graz University of
Technology for two years. The key goals for this research were the development of an (a) lightweight, (b)
geospatially focused and (c) collaborative learning approach.
Originally published: Safran, C.; Ebner, M.; Garcia-Barrios, V. M.; Kappe, F.:
Higher Education M-Learning and E-Learning Scenarios for a Geospatial Wiki. - in: E-Learn - World Conference
on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009)
With the term lightweight we want express that our approach is meant to implement only the most
necessary aspects of a full geographical information system (GIS) necessary for the educational purpose. The term
moreover describes the intended user interaction as being as unobtrusive as possible and based on well-known
software and usage paradigms.
The term geospatially focused refers to the GIS related part of the approach, as it is focused on providing
and working with geospatially related information. Students can benefit in their learning process from the extension
of such information with geospatial information (geotagging) and the creation of a link to real-world space.
Finally the approach researched should be intended for collaborative work on such geospatial information.
The application areas include the search for, and work with, but also the compilation of information in the course of
informal learning scenarios.
In the course of this research a geospatial Wiki application has been developed (Safran and Zaka 2008).
TUGeoWiki is a Web-application based on the open source MediaWiki3 software used in Wikipedia. The original
application is extended in two ways.
On the one hand TUGeoWiki modifies the MediaWiki paradigm of pages for the individual entries in the
Wiki into places. By definition every entry in the geospatial wiki is bound to coordinates and relates to a real-world
place. This is achieved by extending core data structure of the MediaWiki software and by adding special pages to
view and add information bound to geospatial coordinates (Mediawiki 2008).
These special pages are designed as mashups with Google Maps 4, or Microsoft’s Live Search Maps5.
Additionally a link to the MediaWiki Geohack extension is created, which offers the display of the coordinates in
numerous other map sources (Wikipedia 2008).
On the other hand TUGeoWiki provides a mobile application for the usage in the field. The mobile
application offers the possibility to search for places in the vicinity of the current location or relate images to certain
places. It supports the use of internal and external GPS sensors for the identification of the mobile device’s current
location. The mobile application serves as a tool for the communication with the TUGeoWiki server and thus
supplements the usage with a mobile browser (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: TUGeoWiki mobile application architecture

The current version of the mobile application was developed using the Java Mobile Edition (Java ME) 6 in
order to be compatible with a wide number of mobile devices. Currently extended versions are implemented as
native applications for Android 7 and Symbian OS 8 devices.

Learning Scenarios with a Geospatial Wiki

The first successful evaluations in the course of civil engineering excursions revealed, beside potential
improvements, the need for a closer inspection of possible learning scenarios with a geospatial wiki in higher
education. These scenarios are used to describe possible applications of the geowiki and their impact on the learning

3, accessed 2009-04-16
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5, accessed 2009-04-16
6, accessed 2009-04-16
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8, accessed 2009-04-16
Originally published: Safran, C.; Ebner, M.; Garcia-Barrios, V. M.; Kappe, F.:
Higher Education M-Learning and E-Learning Scenarios for a Geospatial Wiki. - in: E-Learn - World Conference
on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009)
Generic e-Learning Scenarios

TUGeoWiki is designed to be usable in e-Learning scenarios without a mobile learning component. In this
case the Web application is used per se, abandoning the mobile application. The two main scenarios for this
application are yet again focused on the support of field trips.
The first possible example is the preparation of students for such a field trip. In various situations it is
preferable that students have already engaged in information on the locations they are going to visit. Teachers may
create place stubs in the Wiki; short articles already geotagged for a certain location, but containing little of no
further information but the location’s title. These can be extended by the students in advance, either collaboratively
or in individual work. The version history feature of the Wiki offers the teacher possibilities to check the distribution
of the work done over time, as well as the individual participants work parts in collaborative work.
The second possible generic example focuses on post-processing the information gained on a field trip.
Again teachers may prepare place stubs in advance and students may compile information about the individual
locations. Moreover images can easily be added to the final places in the Wiki, if they are geotagged. An alternative
variant to using the mobile TUGeoWiki application in the field is the application of a geo tracker. This external
device logs geographical coordinates to timestamps. Later on these tracks can be used to post-process images taken
by synchronizing the coordinates of the track with the image creation times. Available software can be used to add
the coordinates into the images’ EXIF header information. These geotagged images can be uploaded to TUGeoWiki
and used to find fitting places in the Wiki.

Generic m-Learning Scenarios

As previously mentioned, one of the core concepts of TUGeoWiki is the design to be used in the field. The
principal learning scenario in this context is the use of mobile devices like mobile phones to access the TUGeoWiki
application. These mobile devices are used to retrieve the coordinates of the current location and access existing
places in TUGeoWiki in arbitrary vicinity. As such the application is used to retrieve background information on the
current location i.e. compiled by a teacher beforehand and made accessible to provide spatially contextual
information. The students can use this information during the process of learning in order to better understand
relations of a location to theoretical concepts or other locations (Lonsdale, Baber et al. 2004).
The second learning scenario in the mobile context is the application of TUGeoWiki for the compilation of
information on real-world locations by the students. On the one hand textual information can be added to existing or
newly created places. On the other hand the device can be used to create geotagged images of a location and add
them to a place in TUGeoWiki. In this scenario the creation of place-stubs in TUGeoWiki by the teacher beforehand
is advisable to provide a core skeleton of the intended structure. The impact on the learning process in this scenario
lies in the compilation of the information itself, the digestion of the direct experience gained during the field trip and
the informal learning during this task (Specht, Kaibel et al. 2005).
This second scenario can be extended by a collaborative component. The features of the Wiki allow several
students to work on the same places and collaborate in the compilation of information. The learning process is
enhanced by discussions and the need to create a unified perspective on the location. The change history of the Wiki
provides means for personal accountability of the students for their part in the final work, a central prerequisite for
effective cooperative learning (Johnson and Johnson 1994). The advantage of this scenario is that the students can
do their work on the actual locations concerned. Alternative scenarios, with one part of the collaborating students in
situ and another part working remotely, as proposed by (Kravcik, Specht et al. 2003), can also be implemented with


While the first evaluations with lecturers on excursions have shown a positive perception of the e-Learning
scenarios, especially the m-Learning scenarios face several limitations. One of the main limitations of collaborative
m-Learning scenarios is the need for mobile devices providing GPS service and Internet access for all students.
Although some of the students already have access to suiting equipment this can still pose a problem to the majority.
Originally published: Safran, C.; Ebner, M.; Garcia-Barrios, V. M.; Kappe, F.:
Higher Education M-Learning and E-Learning Scenarios for a Geospatial Wiki. - in: E-Learn - World Conference
on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009)

Concrete Scenarios and Extended Paradigms for TUGeoWiki

In the course of the evaluation of TUGeoWiki three concrete scenarios where successively developed.
After the initial development the geowiki approach was tested in a field trip of Civil Engineers, applying a variant of
the second e-Learning scenario (field trip post-processing). In this scenario the lecturer was equipped with a Nokia
N959 mobile phone, supplying an internal GPS receiver, and the TUGeoWiki mobile application. The lecturer was
asked to use the phone to create geotagged images of the field trip, which were subsequently uploaded to
TUGeoWiki and assigned to places. In this scenario TUGeoWiki was solemnly used as an application to create and
provide geotagged learning material. Figure 1 displays one of the resulting pages in TUGeoWiki.

Figure 2: Screenshot of the results of the first evaluation

The evaluation of this scenario was meant to provide basic feedback on the workflow of compiling
information and images in the field, as well as the application of TUGeoWiki from the desktop. The feedback was
taken with a short interview after the excursion. The lecturer stated that taking the photos with the mobile device
was easily possible, although the localization with GPS posed some problems. The initial synchronization with the
GPS signal can take several minutes and GPS is not available without line-of-sight to the corresponding satellites
(i.e. indoors). The upload and subsequent search for existing places in a user-defined radius was perceived as
extremely useful. As far as future development is concerned, the integration of additional data for a location, like
geological or hydraulic data was encouraged. The application of TUGeoWiki for field trip post processing was well

9, accessed 2009-04-22
Originally published: Safran, C.; Ebner, M.; Garcia-Barrios, V. M.; Kappe, F.:
Higher Education M-Learning and E-Learning Scenarios for a Geospatial Wiki. - in: E-Learn - World Conference
on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009)
perceived, but the interviewed lecturer also pointed out the possible advantages of the application in a collaborative
As a second concrete experiment the second e-Learning scenario (collaborative post-processing of field
trips) was implemented for another civil engineering field trip in a follow-up study. The students were equipped
with a mixed technological equipment of digital cameras and one Nokia N95. The teacher was furthermore equipped
with a Holux M-24110 external GPS tracker and the students asked to synchronize the time settings of the cameras
with the data tracker. Images for the creation of the field trip report were taken collaboratively throughout the trip
and subsequently geotagged using the GPS track. The resulting image set was uploaded on TUGeoWiki and relayed
to the places created for the field trip. One-on-one interviews were conducted with the participants of the field trip to
investigate the usefulness of this scenario.

Figure 3: Preparation material for geological field trip prepared with TUGeoWiki

The third concrete scenario implemented for the evaluation of TUGeoWiki focuses on a geology field trip.
TUGeoWiki is used for the students to get prepared for the trip. The scenario combines the first generic e-Learning
scenario (trip preparation) with the third generic m-Learning scenario (collaborative work in the field). The
preparation of this scenario revealed the need for an extension of TUGeoWiki’s content paradigm. While the
previous experiments had shown the basic usefulness of the place paradigm in a civil engineering scenario, which is
basically focused on building sites, geologists have extended requirements, as information can rarely be mapped to
individual locations. The two additional paradigms of areas and tracks need to be supported. An area is represented
by a polygon on a map and is useful for the description of larger-scale geological conditions. A track is represented

10, accessed 2009-04-22
Originally published: Safran, C.; Ebner, M.; Garcia-Barrios, V. M.; Kappe, F.:
Higher Education M-Learning and E-Learning Scenarios for a Geospatial Wiki. - in: E-Learn - World Conference
on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009)
by a line connecting a number of locations and describes an actual sequence of locations visited in the course of the
trip. These additional paradigms are currently in the course of being implemented for evaluation.
As far as the concrete scenario is concerned, a set of place stubs was created and prepared for the field trip.
The places were collected into a Wiki category and are collaboratively filled with information by groups of students
assigned to them. During the field trip the group will be equipped with digital cameras, a mobile device and the GPS
tracker. On the one hand the mobile device will be used to add information in the field and thus extend the
previously prepared articles. On the other hand the images will subsequently be geotagged, uploaded and added to
the existing places in order to enrich them with visual information from the actual trip. Figure 3 depicts the
collection of the prepared place stubs.

Summary & Conclusions

TUGeoWiki helps to enhance lectures of on-site or in-field based education. The automatic display of the position of
the content increases the value of each article in the online collaboration setting. For example a special building
activity becomes obvious because of the shown geological environment.
Furthermore, because of the use of a Wiki System, exchange between learners gets easier and by bringing
information together the quality of articles increases dramatically.
From a didactical point of view the use of TUGeoWiki should also be researched in further fields of study to
investigate whether there are potential usecases. Moreover the mobile application requires further development to
support more mobile devices and a mobile stylesheet must be added to conveniently retrieve also information on the
cell phones just in time and just in place.
It can be concluded that the use of TUGeoWiki had an impact on learning and teaching and there is a great potential
for geo-located applications in future.


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Originally published: Safran, C.; Ebner, M.; Garcia-Barrios, V. M.; Kappe, F.:
Higher Education M-Learning and E-Learning Scenarios for a Geospatial Wiki. - in: E-Learn - World Conference
on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009)
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