Part of the 4TU.Federation
4TU.
Centre for
Engineering Education

Project introduction and background information

As Wageningen University and Research, we profile ourselves as a key actor on the international stage in the academic domain of “healthy food and living environment”. Accordingly, the WUR Vision for Education states: We expect our graduates to be able to work on global challenges, to compete for jobs in an international environment and to function in a multicultural setting. An international classroom, where the experience of students from different countries can be shared, is one of the best settings to learn intercultural skills. This international profile is supported by the multicultural nature of our student population. However, we are still limited in the extent to which we can offer these students a truly global learning environment. The WUR Vision for Education emphasises the role of real-life scenarios in education: We value learning in real-life, authentic situations where students can learn to apply scientific and practical knowledge to tackle complex and interdisciplinary issues. Learning within real-world cases is instrumental for developing a critical and responsible attitude, multi/interdisciplinary cooperation and the ability to deal with diverse societal stakeholders and influences. In these rich learning environments, students develop the academic, engineering/designing, sustainability, social/societal and personal competencies they need to be successful in international settings in the 21st century.

Thus far, engagement with these real-life scenarios has been limited to the following 4 choices:

  • Introductory courses: excursions to case-studies in the Netherlands, preferably within a radius of 100km from Wageningen;
  • Advanced courses: selected multi-day field trips to countries surrounding the Netherlands;
  • Sending individual Masters students to countries outside Western Europe;
  • Using screens (photographs, videos) to introduce larger groups of students to farming systems and agro-climatic zones outside Western Europe;

Objective and expected outcomes

Therefore, the problem we are trying to solve with this project is that there is a mismatch between WUR’s global aspirations and its current menu of “real-life, authentic examples”, which is limited to either Dutch case-studies, Western European case-studies, or to the use of screens. Whilst screens may be used to show educational vlogs of case-studies, this form of communication and education merely addresses the cognitive aspects of knowledge transfer and learning. This is in sharp contrast with actual field visits, in which cognitive learning is enriched with spatio-temporal context and orientation, resulting in a richer and more meaningful learning experience. The programmes in this project involved are Masters Organic Agriculture, Masters Plant Sciences, Earth & Environment, International Land & Water Management.

Results and learnings

Our programme innovation project will create a true global and rich learning environment by bringing international examples of sustainable farms and foodscapes into the classroom through new immersive education technologies, such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. The use of these technologies in the classroom will create an immersive educational experience which is the closest possible option next to actually travelling to the farms and foodscapes and experiencing it in real life.

An immersive experience makes a difference in the learning environment by providing more engagement with the material, which allows students to experience the farm or foodscape in its full spatio-temporal and contextual setting.

(Note: A foodscape is in effect a real-world example of a specific food system within the context of a landscape, with all its complexities. Assessment of foodscapes requires a multi-disciplinary approach, integrating the expertise of PSG, ASG, ESG, SSG and AFSG.)

  • The creation of a rich learning environment that combines knowledge, skills and attitude
  • High Quality Scientific Knowledge
  • Real-life, authentic situations into the classroom, from a rich variety of foodscapes and societies
  • Creation of global outdoor classroom as an essential infrastructure for the WUR ecosystem
  • Diversity of real-life foodscape exemplars
  • Contribution to the demand for WageningenX and Open Educational Resources as international examples of cutting-edge agricultural education the in 21st century