ERG SES H 09, ICT and Education
This paper is based on an on-going project on game-based-learning in the veterinary learning environment at the University of Copenhagen. The paper describes and contextualizes the project within the veterinary profession-oriented education. Further, methodological challenges of engaging in ethnographic research in clinical-practical veterinary courses will be discussed. In empirical terms, the paper will focus on first phase studies exploring the veterinary learning environment.
In the education of veterinarians, herd visits and animal contact are essential for training of important clinical skills. However, clinical courses at the University of Copenhagen are challenged by increased student uptake, and considerable costs associated with herd visits result in very sparse actual confrontation time with animals and owners.
In 2012 a development project was initiated from a teacher at the Department of Large Animal Sciences, Centre for Herd-Oriented Education, Research and Development at the University of Copenhagen. A result was production of a demo-version of a computer game. The game resembles adventure-/simulation games and allows students to perform a virtual herd visit. The demo version will be further processed and new game modules concerning specific pig diseases and problem related to herd health and herd health management to be produced in collaboration with external software developers. The idea is to provide a safe, virtual environment where students can practice realistic clinical situations in easy-accessible, interactive settings hereby supporting the students in acquiring important clinical skills. Furthermore, learning outcomes that interact with the existing clinical training – both theoretical and practical – concerning herd health management and pig diseases are expected. The game modules are thought to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the training of veterinarians. The game is intended to supplement existing teaching methods in a mandatory veterinary course in Herd Health Management (pig-module), where students alternate between different learning contexts; traditional lectures, practical clinical work in commercial pig herds, post mortem examinations, seminars, group work, presentations and evaluations.
Following the process of development, implementation and evaluation of game-based-learning (GBL) within the pig module course, this Ph.D. project is conducted as research based evaluation of game-based learning in the veterinary education with the overall tasks to examine:
- How game-based-learning function as "didactical unit" in the pig-module?
- How the participating teachers and students perceive the learning processes and learning outcomes?
- How to maintain motivation and engagement of the veterinary students in game-based virtual worlds?
First phase of the project (Initial “mapping-out-the-field”) has concentrated on ethnographic studies in the existing pig-module (no GBL). This research phase has been driven by the basic educational ethnographic questions: How is usual teaching practice in the pig-module? How do students and teachers act during the pig-module?
These studies revealed many empirically strong and important points related to educational structure, the Ramsden/Biggs tradition and the classical theory/practice dilemma.
The empirical concepts are strengthened by earlier empirical studies in different educational contexts at University of Copenhagen and at the reform universities at Roskilde and Aalborg (Jacobsen, 1973, Borgnakke 1983, 1996).
The theoretical reflection is sharpened by inspiration from the conceptual framework of Basil Bernstein (Bernstein 1973, 1999, 2000). Further, referring to Kuhn´s theory of paradigms, the Ramsden/Biggs tradition (“Learning-paradigm”) can be critical described as the dominant but narrow paradigm focusing on individual learning and learning outcome strategies (Borgnakke 2011). Moving towards a more sociological-anthropological approach of “the learning question” inspires to a reconstruction of the theories of learning, experience and situated learning in the professional social practice (Borgnakke 2014).
Questions in focus of this next phase are concerned with how to implement game based learning and experimenting with methods determining how to follow students while engaging in playing activities.
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