Aim and expected results

This project aims at facilitating a multidisciplinary and systemic understanding of agroecology for secondary and higher education students as well as agricultural professionals through the development of a digital training tool. This tool will take the form of a serious game, i.e. a computer simulation game that will help students and agricultural professionals understand concretely how to implement agroecological practices on a virtual farm, and evaluate the impacts of their choices on the economic, social and environmental dimensions of the farm.
Online pedagogical resources and tutorial will also be provided to help players and trainers use the game.
During the third year of the project, the game and pedagogical scenarios will be tested to train students, agriculture professionals and teachers.
Our project aims to raise awareness on the possibilities and impacts of the set of agroecological practices at our disposal (optimization of nutrients, adaptation to soil conditions, use of beneficial biological interactions, …)

Main learning objectives

Our project plans to develop a serious game responding to 3 main objectives:

  1. Help the players acquiring a systems thinking methodology, which is an essential skill for complex problem solving in agroecology (Francis et al., 2011; Debruyne et al., 2017). The players can learn this methodology by analyzing the farming system with indicators providing information on its technical features as well as systemic economic, environmental and social sustainability indicators. The game combines several scientific fields (plant science, animal and veterinary science, soil science, ecology, economics and social sciences) in a model whose properties cannot be anticipated by analyzing any one part of the system in isolation.
  2. Find adapted solutions to solve a given agroecological problem. Putting the players in a situation of active learning and experimentation will allow them to test various options that a farmer could choose, and to instantly see their consequences on multiple aspects of the farm management. This inductive pedagogical approach helps the players evaluate the implemented actions, adapt their actions to their goals, and most importantly (Francis et al., 2011).
  3. Provide practical knowledge about a large diversity of agroecological practices, their effects in different contexts and how to combine them in order to increase farming systems sustainability. This practical knowledge is also identified by De Bruyne et al. (2017) as a critical skill for agroecology learning, and the serious game provides a tool to improve learning by “doing in silico”.