Designing citizen science tools for learning: lessons learnt from the iterative development of nQuire

Herodotou, Christothea; Aristeidou, Maria; Sharples, Mike and Scanlon, Eileen (2018). Designing citizen science tools for learning: lessons learnt from the iterative development of nQuire. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 13(4)




This paper reports on a 4-year research and development case study about the design of citizen science tools for inquiry learning. It details the process of iterative pedagogy-led design and evaluation of the nQuire toolkit, a set of web-based and mobile tools scaffolding the creation of online citizen science investigations. The design involved an expert review of inquiry learning and citizen science, combined with user experience studies involving more than 200 users. These have informed a concept that we have termed ‘citizen inquiry’, which engages members of the public alongside scientists in setting up, running, managing or contributing to citizen science projects with a main aim of learning about the scientific method through doing science by interaction with others. A design-based research (DBR) methodology was adopted for the iterative design and evaluation of citizen science tools. DBR was focused on the refinement of a central concept, ‘citizen inquiry’, by exploring how it can be instantiated in educational technologies and interventions. The empirical evaluation and iteration of technologies involved three design experiments with end users, user interviews, and insights from pedagogy and user experience experts. Evidence from the iterative development of nQuire led to the production of a set of interaction design principles that aim to guide the development of online, learning-centred, citizen science projects. Eight design guidelines are proposed: users as producers of knowledge, topics before tools, mobile affordances, scaffolds to the process of scientific inquiry, learning by doing as 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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