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Human-centred design can increase the use of new mobile technology in higher education

Renée Schulz disputerer for ph.d.-graden onsdag 21. mars 2018 med avhandlingen “Listening to Teacher’s needs: Human-Centered Design for Mobile Technology in Higher Education”. (Foto: Privat)

Paradoxically, the vast development of everyday technology is not reflected in educational settings and the fast adaption of innovative technology is missing in the educational sector.

Renée Schulz

PhD Candidate / Associate Professor

Everyday technology evolves rapidly and is quickly taken into use. However, in higher education the introduction of new technology is slow. Renée Schulz examines whether a more human-centred design will help mobile technology become a part of teaching in higher education.

Her research shows that teachers lack motivation for integrating technology into their teaching processes. In her thesis, Schulz applied Human-centred Design (HCD) to analyse the context of teaching in higher education and to understand the teachers’ needs and requirements for innovative and up-to-date technology.

To motivate teachers to use new technology, game effects and game elements were used. That resulted in the development of a prototype called Dynamic Questing (DynQ).

Renée Schulz defends her PhD thesis ‘Listening to Teachers’ Needs: Human-Centred Design for Mobile Technology in Higher Education’ on Wednesday 21 March 2018.

She has followed the PhD programme at the Faculty of Engineering and Science with specialisation in Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

The doctorate is funded by the research project Agder Digital Arena (ADILA).

Summary of the thesis by Renée Schulz:

Human-centred Design for Mobile Technologies in Higher Education

Technology evolves rapidly. Especially mobile and wearable technology is on the rise.

Educational technology has recently seen considerable developments in different technological areas.

Innovative technology is missing in education

Paradoxically, the vast development of everyday technology is not reflected in educational settings and the fast adaption of innovative technology is missing in the educational sector.

This thesis applies a Human-centred Design (HCD) process to analyse the context of teaching in higher education, to understand teachers' needs and requirements to design innovative and up-to-date technology.

It was found that teachers lack motivation to integrate technology into their teaching processes. 

Learning tasks a critical component

Learning tasks were found to be a critical component in teaching and learning processes. Therefore, the support of teaching processes around learning tasks was chosen as the central problem in this thesis.

The use case of alpine sport teaching was chosen for an in-depth analysis of learning tasks.

To address the motivational problem, gamification was taken into consideration. Games are known for their motivational factors and effects.

Learning through gamification

Due to the similarities between learning tasks and game tasks, an extensive analysis on how to design for motivating tasks based on lessons learned from game tasks was conducted. The findings include that certain game elements, structures and processes can be used to design for motivating learning tasks. 

From the context of use analysis in teaching and the findings from the game analyses, the Dynamic Questing (DynQ) concept was developed.

Developed a prototype

The DynQ concept consists of learning task creation, task triggering, context sensing and feedback generation. A proof-of-concept prototype was developed to test out the DynQ concept and to be used for user testing with alpine sports teachers. After that, the concept was also tested with teachers from different teaching contexts. 

Further design and development of the DynQ system could help improve usability and user experience. This work forms a basis for the advancement of personalised and contextualised learning through mobile and wearable technology support.

Disputation facts:

The candidate: Renée Patricia Schulz (1989) in Aachen, Germany. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Aachen University of Applied Sciences (2011), and a master’s degree from Cologne University of Applied Sciences (2013). She is now associate professor at the University of Agder.

The trial lecture and public defence will take place in Room C2 040, Campus Grimstad, Wednesday 21 March 2018.

Assistant Head of Department of Information and Communication Technology Morgan Konnestad will chair the disputation. 

Trial lecture at 10:00

Public defence at 12:00

Given topic for trial lecture: ‘The use of computer games in education

Thesis title: ‘Listening to Teachers' Needs: Human-centred Design for Mobile Technology in Higher Education

Search for the thesis in AURA - Agder University Research Archive, a digital archive of scientific papers, theses and dissertations from the academic staff and students at the University of Agder. The thesis will also be available at the University Library, and some copies will also be available for loan at the auditorium where the disputation takes place. 


First opponent: Professor Marko Nieminen, Department of Computer Science, Aalto University, Finland

Second opponent: Associate Professor Sanja Čandrlić, Department of Informatics, University of Rijeka, Croatia

Associate Professor Santiago Gil Martinez, University of Agder, is appointed as the administrator for the assessment committee.

Supervisors were Professor Andreas Prinz, University of Agder (main supervisor); and Associate Professor Ghislain Maurice N. Isabwe, University of Agder (co-supervisor). Professor Frank Reichert was main supervisor but had to stand down when he became rector at UiA.