This cube uses circles and lights to give you a classroom feel when working from home

Once classes started going online during the pandemic, one of my constant thoughts was “Why didn’t I have this back when I was a student?” I was thinking that I would love to have spent a better part of my high school years just studying on my own and away from all my classmates and the prying eyes of my teachers. But obviously, there are a lot of downsides to having remote learning and that includes the lack of motivation for not having people around you to push you to actually study and do your work.

The berry-like-jumbo is a concept for a tabletop device whose main purpose is to motivate students to do online learning by trying to recreate the classroom experience. A lot of studies have been done over the last couple of years about the challenges students face as they studied remotely and one of these is the loss of the “social presence” aspect of learning. As per the Community of Inquiry Model (COI), that is one of the important things in the entire Educational Experience (Cognitive Presence and Teaching Presence being the other two) and not having this has lessened the Motivation Contagion that students need.

Designer: Germaine Tan

So the idea for this concept design is to recreate for the online experience that “motivation contagion” that you get when in an actual classroom surrounded by your fellow learners. What they came up with is the berry-like-jumbo, a box-type device that looks like a Bluetooth speaker at first glance. It is an IoT social presence device that will let you know your classmates’ movements or activity by using motion sensors and let you know through minimalist and easy-to-understand visuals.

The concept design itself seems a bit too bulky, especially if the student already has too many devices and other schoolwork stuff on the table. By the way, the concept video doesn’t give a realistic picture of a clean desk with only the berry-like-jumbo and their laptop on the table. In any case, the usability testing of the device showed that the test subjects found that the presence indication through the circles representing their classmates helped them in starting and actually finishing their work.

They did web-based protoyping as well to see how effective the interactions with the circles will be. Some of the motion sensor things that get translated into the circle movement include the circle fading into the background if you leave the desk and then growing in size the longer it senses you’re seated and working on your desk. There are mini dots that tell you how many times the user got up from the desk. And since it’s trying to recreate an actual classroom experience, there’s also a way to virtually nudge your friend in case you need them to pay attention to you or your teacher.

If I was still a student, I probably would not want a device sensing my every move all throughout the day. That may just be me though, since I don’t always feel so sociable when I want to focus on my work. It also seems a little bit distracting to have to glance at something else on your table other than the screen you’re supposed to be paying attention to. But given that we’ll probably be seeing more hybrid or totally online classes in the next few years, then something that can help simulate an actual classroom experience can be useful.