Dr. Elena Marchiori and Prof. Lorenzo Cantoni have recently presented their research paper: “An Augmented Reality Project as an Opportunity to Foster Community Engagement and Practical Learning in Tourism Programs” (see the abstract below).
The full paper has been presented at the TEFI7 Conference held at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, UK, within the session: Tourism Education Design for Global Citizenship.
TEFI is a global network of tourism academics and industry practitioners who find a common platform in values-based education. We returned from this conference very inspired by the commitment of the conference group and the genuine desire to support one another.
This paper is about tourism educational programs and the nature of eTourism projects as an opportunity to foster community engagement with local tourism actors, and practical learning for students. Following Wallis and Steptoe (2006), educational systems need a change on the skills and knowledge transfer in order to meet the challenges of the next decades. Moreover, as in the TEFI (Tourism Education Futures Initiative) framework (Sheldon and Fesenmaier, 2009), students should be involved in projects that serve a community or the tourism industry in the region in which they study, in order to include knowledge of responsible stewardship of tourism destinations into their curriculum (Cantoni and Kalbaska, 2012). The development of an Augmented Reality (AR) project has been selected as a topic that might encourage community engagement between tourism actors and educational programs operating in the same area. Indeed, AR requires the knowledge of the territory in order to place points of interest and to provide augmented contents that add value to a place. Moreover, AR requires technical skills and online communications knowledge. Furthermore, contents displayed in a tourism-related AR application should provide a service for tourists, thus promotional and business implications need to be taken into account during the development of such a project. A project devoted to the creation of an AR application about the hiking trails of the mountains around the lake of Lugano in Switzerland has been realized during the academic fall semester 2012-2013 within the course “eTourism Technology Lab” of the Master program in International Tourism of the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI, University of Lugano, Switzerland). A follow up survey performed after the completion of the course with the 35 involved students has shown the pedagogical implications of the introduction of an applied/practical course within a Tourism program. Students declared to: i) have learned how to use eTourism software and their affordances in the promotion of a place; ii) have discovered the tourism attractions of the territory in which they study; iii) have understood how much effort is needed to implement an eTourism project; iv) they also underlined the relevance of producing an eTourism application available online, which will be referenced in their CV/portfolio of activities. The project foresaw also the collaboration with relevant local tourism actors; a follow-up survey performed with them after the launch of the prototype of AR application has shown how the project acted as an opportunity to stimulate community engagement. In particular, tourism organizations declared to: i) better understand the promotional benefits of using eTourism applications; ii) have learned about the Master program in International Tourism, and appreciated the practical output of what graduate students can achieve in the eTourism domain; iii) have increased the willingness to collaborate with the academia on the promotion of the territory; iv) have recognized the value of supporting local tourism educational programs in order to train students in the enhancement of local economy.