The ATLAS tool is designed to support student-centred teaching by allowing learners to (anonymously) communicate trouble understanding or following a lecture via mouseclick, touch or keypress. The information of all students is then aggregated and provided to the teacher using an ambient design – meaning: by brightening up or dimming down the screen or physical environment. This allows the teacher to get a global idea about the level of understanding within the room without the need to assemble singular chunks of information.


Learners: Teachers:

Instructions for the ATLAS tool

As a teacher, you can either set up a version on your own servers (instructions and the code can be found here: GitLab Project) or you can use our version. It runs on servers of the University of Duisburg-Essen and it does not collect person-specific data. You do not have to sign up, disclose name or eMail address.

Creating a room

To create a room, you can go to the Tool Website and create a room. You can do this on a device of your choice. Note: At the moment, we do not guarantee that the room stays open for more than a few days; currently, rooms are being kept open, but we are working on a solution to allow you to decide if you want a regular / permanent or a single-use room.

Screenshot of the ATLAS room creation website

Teacher view

When you have created and entered this room (teacher view), you can access the room link or QR-code you can put on your slides, so students get access to the “student-room” attached to each “teacher-room”. When students indicate problems, this will be shown to you by a change of brightness of the website - the darker the website gets, the more students indicate problems. You can use the tool on your main presentation screen, an additional screen, or even an additional device like a smartphone or tablet - you can copy the link to the teacher view from the URL bar of your browser.

Screenshot of the ATLAS teacher view (inactive) Screenshot of the ATLAS teacher view (active)

Student view

Students can open the link you gave them (student view) on a device of their choice - the device they watch the lecture on, or an additional device. When students log in to the room, they come to an almost blank page, where they can press ctrl, right-mouse click or touch to indicate lack of understanding. They should keep the button pressed as long as the problem exists, because data is aggregated and provided to the teacher view in real time.

Screenshot of the ATLAS student view (inactive) Screenshot of the ATLAS student view (active)

Using the tool during a lecture

Instructions for students

As a teacher, make sure the students understand the instructions. Ideally, you could let them try out the tool and show them what happens on your side, when they press buttons. You can base the instructions for your students on these points:

Note: Keep in mind that your data will be handled anonymously and your teacher will only be made aware of problems, but not their source or cause. If you have any specific questions, ask your lecturer directly via the lecture‘s usual communication channels.

Using the tool

  1. open the link provided by the teacher on a device of choice
  2. if using a mobile device, disable screen lock
  3. during the lecture: indicate if you are having trouble following the lecture
  4. use ctrl-key, left mouse key or touch interaction
  5. keep pressing until resolved
  6. the page will turn blue while transmitting data

Visualization for teachers

The aggregation algorithm currently uses a simple 50% rule to determine brightness: if 50% of logged in students press a button, the light goes completely off, if 0% press, it is maximally on. Everything in between in gradually dimmed. We are currently working on a solution so you can adjust the rule yourself – depending on the students, subject taught and class size, you might want the algorithm to be more (or less) sensitive to problems.

There are currently two ways to use the tool on the teachers’ side:

1. Web-based version:
You don’t need anything except for a web-browser. The brightness information is transmitted via the teacher-room, a website that gets darker or brighter depending on level of understanding that is transmitted. The drawback is that you need to have the website visible during your teaching to have an effect and this may be hard to do depending on the setup you use. If you need to switch tabs or windows to get to the information, the tool loses its purpose. You can use it on your mobile device and place it next to your screen, but this may not be salient enough to get your attention during class. So plus: accessible, no equipment needed, usable on mobile or laptop; drawback: functionality highly depends on your setup.

2. ATLAS Hue:
Via a locally installed python script (script and instructions here: GitLab Project), you can integrate smart lights. It is available for Philips Hue, but we are working on other solutions as well. If you do this, use the Hue to light your room (you should try to block out daylight as much as you can to get most effect). When students indicate problems, the light gradually gets darker, dimming your physical environment to let you know there are issues. This is much more convenient, but requires a smart light and a python installation. Another plus is that when you have your camera on while presenting, the students themselves see what happens due to their keypresses, so they experience what you experience. This may motivate them to use the tool more frequently, as they can see the effect even if you only subtly adjust your teaching to meet their academic needs. We highly recommend this version from a functionality perspective, but do see issues of accessibility for teachers (the student side is exactly the same web-version accessible through the web-based room you created).

We are happy for anyone to use the tool. It is open source and if you can code, you are free to adjust the tool. We would kindly ask you and your students to fill out an evaluation form after usage (even multiple times after each session you used the tool in). Of course, this is anonymous and completely voluntarily. Links to the forms are available here: links to surveys (english and german only). Also: write us your feedback directly if you want to get in touch. Ideas to further develop the tool are also highly appreciated.