Field Network System

Subject Env Bio Earth

A portable network infrastructure for fieldwork.

Background
Fieldwork learning activities typically separate field-based data collection from class-based data analysis and interpretation. Field data, written on worksheets or field notebooks, is manually entered into a spreadsheet after a field trip. This is then used for checking, collating, analysing and interpreting the data.

The Field Network System enables groups of students to use mobile devices to enter their data into an activity-specific website. The site automatically validates and collates the data as it is entered, so that students can analyse and interpret their data in context while at the field location. A tutor can also use the site to view each student’s progress and thereby scaffold their learning more effectively.

The Field Network System uses a battery-powered portable WiFi network to enable communication between a laptop running the web-server application and a set of mobile devices (such as tablets or smartphones). This ‘network-in-a-bag’ approach has the following advantages:

  1. Device independent: any device with WiFi connectivity can be used to connect to the portable WiFi network.
  2. No additional software: any web-standards compliant browser can be used to access the website. No task-specific app needs to be installed or updated on the mobile devices.
  3. No data tariffs: the system provides a local communications network and website. Therefore, there are no mobile broadband data charges and it can be used in field locations that do not have reliable Internet coverage.
  4. Easy to fix: the system is self-contained. It only has a few components that can be quickly replaced if anything goes wrong (i.e. a battery, battery cable, WiFi router and laptop).

Using the Field Network System
If you are interested in setting up your own Field Network System, please contact us at openscience@open.ac.uk for further information.

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