Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Active Learning in the Department of Landscape

Increasing students’ participation in the learning process is meant to foster critical and creative thinking (Rocca 2010), and students in the Department of Landscape have been using an innovative treasure hunt app to enhance their field trips.

The University of Sheffield purchased a site licence for Actionbound in 2016, and the Department of Landscape has been creating interactive treasure hunts, or 'bounds' to be used across a number of modules. Treasure hunts can include maps, compass directions, text, images, videos, team challenges and quizzes for students to complete. The app is freely available to download, and students use Actionbound on their personal devices. Actionbound can also take advantage of GPS locations identified by the device - delivering learning materials at specific geographical locations.

Actionbound also allows students to submit video or images as part of their treasure hunt. One fun example in the department saw students submit selfies in front of key landscape features.

A more pedagogic outcome enabled submissions of the sketches drawn on location. This proved to be an excellent way of capturing these drawings, but demonstrated there is still significant value in a pen and paper.

image of a sketch drawn by student

Paul Buck, I.T. Officer and Graphic Design Instructor in the department said:

There were a few teething issues but the feedback was generally positive, with students saying they enjoyed it and it motivated them to engage with the site. They also appreciated by the air of competition the app created. 

You can read more about the Department of Landscape's use of technology in fieldwork on the Sheffield Landscape Blog.

Glover (2013) talks about learning as a participatory process, and suggests that there could be significant benefits from incorporating games concepts with education. Students in the department have said using Actionbound has really encouraged them to make the most out of field trips, and have really enjoyed the competitive nature of gaining points for completing tasks within the treasure hunt.

This extra level of engagement that Actionbound has the potential unlock resonates with Galliard & McSherry's (2014) findings using a similar technology. They describe how students take charge of their own learning process—transforming them from passive actors that are merely involved in the learning, to actively engaged participants.

If you would like to find out more about Actionbound, or to gain access to our site licence please contact 

Gaillard, J. C., & McSherry, A. (2014). Revisiting Geography Field Trips: A Treasure Hunt Experience. Journal of Geography, 113(4), 171-178. Available from: [Accessed 12th April 2017]

Glover, I. (2013). Play as you learn: gamification as a technique for motivating learners. Available from: [Accessed 12th April 2017]

Rocca, K. A. (2010). Student participation in the college classroom: An extended multidisciplinary literature review. Communication Education, 59(2), 185-213. Available from: [Accessed 12th April 2017]


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