ECDS Resources Feature: OpenTour Builder

OpenTour Builder is a tour creation app designed and created by the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) to create culturally- and historically-based geospatial tours that run easily on mobile devices, using native Google map directions and maps. We launched our new OpenTour Emory multi-site last year, providing a way for Emory faculty, staff, and other instructors and community members to apply for a site of their own. Each OpenTour site allows one to build multiple digital tours, which are particularly beneficial resources during this time of remote and socially-distanced learning and teaching.

The OpenTour multi-site works much like Emory’s ScholarBlogs in that it provides the Emory community with a hosted site for academic teaching and research. (For more on ScholarBlogs, read our “ECDS Resources Feature: ScholarBlogs” blog post. To learn more about other ECDS and ECDS-affiliated resources, check out our Resources Feature blog post series.) We hope instructors and students can take advantage of these unique tools to enrich their teaching and learning experiences, even during unprecedented times like a pandemic.

You can use OpenTour for Teaching!

  • Have students create online assignments that engage them with their environment.
  • Create tours as group or individual assignments.
  • Allow opportunities for socially distanced activities.

All your tours can be hosted at a custom Emory OpenTour URL at the Emory OpenTour domain. Students can prepare a tour at home based on historical data and then go to that location with a phone or share it online for people there to try.  With OpenTour you can create a variety of digital assignments:

  • Have a class of students create a digital tour of any geographical location
  • Have a class create a new tour each year
  • Have each student in a class create their own tour
Screenshot of desktop version, Campus Public Art OpenTour

OpenTour is locally made, free, and supported by ECDS. It provides a great forum for students to do manageably-sized amounts of research to produce a public-facing product within a course schedule. Past examples of OpenTours include this Campus Public Art OpenTour (Emory University), a guided experience tour of the mural “Mi Gente” (Atlanta History Center; available in English and Spanish) and the Augusta’s Golden Blocks OpenTour (Digital Tour Initiative, in partnership with Georgia Humanities).

Mobile version of Campus Public Art OpenTour

With the increased need for online/remote teaching this year, we know that people are looking for ways to incorporate the landscape, the environment, and outside locations into the digital teaching environment. OpenTour is a good way to get students connecting their studies to physical environments.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, OpenTour has also been used to get people outside while safely practicing social distancing, led one at a time by means of their mobile device rather than in group tours or activities. OpenTour also provides an alternative desktop option which allows users to “tour” other spaces from home on their desktop or mobile device. For example, the Freedom Park Conservancy has used their OpenTour site this summer as a socially distanced alternative to their traditional Jane’s Walk program.

The Emory German study abroad in Vienna provides an example of a course that uses a multi-year OpenTour teaching site. This tour (“Lebenswertes Wien”) from summer 2019 builds on Hiram Maxim’s use of OpenTour in past summers, using earlier iterations of the OpenTour app. All the different years’ tours are now available on the Sustainable Vienna tour site.

Screenshot of Sustainable Vienna OpenTour site.

You can find out more about how to use OpenTour through our OpenTour Builder wiki or through the ECDS Teaching Tools workshop, which is available on the ECDS Workshop Canvas page. Email ecds [at] emory [dot] edu and request access to the free ECDS Workshop Canvas page for this and other recorded workshops.

As a member of the Emory Community, you can apply for a tour site to use in your teaching. Submit this Emory Community OpenTour Proposal form to request your tour site, or email ecds [at] emory [dot] edu for a consultation on whether or not OpenTour would meet your needs.

Outside parties can also partner with us to use OpenTour.  You can find out more about our partnership options on our website’s OpenTour Builder project page, and you can apply for a partnership via the OpenTour Proposal form.