What’s it like to hear history? University of British Columbia students learning about the Canadian Pacific Railway in downtown Vancouver will soon find out. They’re on board with a new and interactive audio walking tour made possible by local startup Motive.io.
“If we’d talked about this even five years ago, it would have just been too expensive and we couldn’t have done it.”
The pioneering technology allows for more flexible learning experiences that move away from an instructor-centric classroom instruction model, said UBC geography instructor Dr. Siobhán McPhee, who headed up the partnership with Motive. The platform uses location-based GPS beacons that trigger audio clips as students approach locations around CPR-related spots in the downtown area, integrating quizzes and other lesson elements as well.
“It’s important that we give students real life experiences, especially with the first year students,” McPhee says. “Some students see learning as boring and want to do something more interactive – so why not have both?”
An earlier iteration of the lesson had entire cohorts of students descending on the downtown eastside using a Google map, audio files, and pens and papers. With the new platform, students can go in smaller groups at more flexible times, without needing to download anything or tick off answers on a paper question sheet. The tour is much more immersive, with audio coming on as the students reach local geographic objectives.
The experience uses the same technology that Motive used to create a unique soundwalk for New York City’s iconic Times Square landmark, where listeners can experience sounds of the Amazon rainforest. The wildly popular attraction received nationwide coverage in the USA.
While audio walks are not a brand new experience, Motive’s platform makes it relatively easy for organizations to develop their own location-based audio experiences. The platform offers a simple drag-and-drop development interface using maps, video, audio, and more — and doesn’t require an experienced programmer, says Motive co-founder and senior developer Peter Wittig.
Motive actually built the software to support a game they were developing, but the company pivoted when they realized they had built a tool that others could use to create unique audio experiences.
UBC is an innovator with developing these kinds of interactive eduacational experiences for students, McPhee says. She expects upwards of 550 students across the geography department to be using the platform and then expand it from there. The technology is now affordable enough that they can scale up quickly.
“If we’d talked about this even five years ago, it would have just been too expensive and we couldn’t have done it,” she said.