Key-words: active learning; games; blended learning; ICT enhanced education; interdisciplinarity; problem-based learning; research-based education; role-playing games; simulations; student-centered teaching and learning; quintuple helix of innovation.
Creative solutions to the increasingly complex problems of the world require the intersection of diverse expertise, thus, interdisciplinarity has become a major topic in academic and policy oriented discourse on knowledge production, in particular as an answer to environmental challenges. This trend is reflected in higher education, with many programs aspiring to provide interdisciplinary teaching and learning. The Norwegian College of Fishery Science (NFH) hosts the only tertiary education program in Norway – and one of a handful in the world – that educates and trains fisheries and aquaculture candidates: the Bachelor program in Fiskeri og havbruksvitenskap (FHV). FHV is an applied educational and training program. Fisheries and aquaculture candidates are not biologists, nor economists. Instead, they are the multi- and interdisciplinary minds who can fulfil the expectations of both the industry and the society at a large, with focus on sustainability. The objective of the SimFish project is to boost the potential of the FHV program through implementing an innovative approach to interdisciplinary vocational education and training: the SimFish Model. The Model is committed to the quality standards of teaching and learning in the 3rd Millennium (e.g. student-centred and active learning, information and communication technology (ICT) enhanced and research-based education). The SimFish Model will include theoretical and practical aspects of the this innovative vocational teaching and learning, enabling the transfer of the Model from FHV to other vocational training programs. We also acknowledge the specific challenges of the fisheries and aquaculture sector (e.g. interdisciplinarity and efficient transfer of learning from the university to the work context).
When taking the FHV program in its SimFish version, the students will be introduced from the start of their Bachelor studies into a trans-media simulated world, the SimFish Game. The Game will simulate real life problems that can be solved by putting together specific knowledge, skills and competences that are available through the courses students take during the FHV program. The Game will be developed with a specific focus on issues and challenges that are not contained within single disciplines or courses. Examples include issues like quality loss of seafood products, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, multiple uses of coastal areas, poverty and sustainable governance, and sea lice control and management. Input from the industry and government partners in the FHV internship course, together with events in the real world will be used as unexpected events in the SimFish Game. The Game increases in complexity by year, according to the potential of the students and to their academic development. Thus, The SimFish Game is a hybrid that will combine components of different educational approaches (e.g. student centred learning, blended learning, problem-based learning, peer-teaching etc.) and games (e.g. simulation games, role-playing games, alternate reality games, pervasive games etc.) for which there is evidence for improved learning experience.
At local level, the SimFish project will collaborate with the UiT Centre for teaching, learning and technology (Result) and the UiT Centre for career and corporate relations. The technical development of the SimFish Game will be performed in collaboration with T-Xchange, The Netherlands, a research driven company specialized in development of game based learning tools. In addition, the project will benefit from the collaboration between NFH and 31 industrial and governmental partners that contribute to the internship course available in FHV. At national and international level, members of the UiT design and development team are members of the European Social Simulation Association (ESSA) Special Interest Group on Social Simulation and Serious Games and have relevant connections in the simulation, games and learning research environments from the University of Utrecht and University of Twente, The Netherlands, University of Stockholm, Sweden, University of Oslo, Norway, and Aalborg University, Denmark.