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Re-Organise: educating students about symbiotic network dynamics through serious gaming
Professional and academic education increasingly use realistic, rich, safe and interactive tools such as serious gaming. In our case we have used a serious game to teach students how socio-economic and technological opportunities and challenges could shape sustainable businesses in a circular economy. In this paper, we specifically show how local symbiotic networks in a city can be created through a serious game called Re-Organise. Symbiotic networks consist of a heterogeneous set of socio-economic and technological elements. Both types of elements bring forth and undergo multiple complex and dynamic interactions. These involve social interactions among actors and physical exchanges regarding materials and energy products. Economic motivations for actors engaging in symbiosis can be selling waste as by-product or avoiding waste disposal costs. In addition, symbiotic networks often create broader environmental and social benefits, such as resource recycling, or job creation. Every specific case, however, leads to subtle differences in behaviour and outcomes. It is therefore difficult to teach students about the intricacies of network emergence in a strictly theoretical fashion. Serious gaming can be a powerful method to comprehend such intricate dynamics of forming and operating symbiotic networks. Re-Organise, a serious game that we have developed for this purpose, is based on practice-oriented action research, and developed with symbiotic network participants. By adding a case description, Re-Organise can now be used for educational purposes. Re-Organise players represent the actors in an urban agriculture area, such as farmers, restaurants, gardeners, allotment garden communities, etc. The goal of the players is to find as much local use for their waste as possible, while maximizing the fulfilment of their own needs and motivations. We have played Re-Organise multiple times in different education activities at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and at the Delft University of Technology. The learning goals of the game play were comprehension of specific technological solutions and boundary conditions, comprehension of different perspectives and goals of the various actors, and application of the aforementioned sociotechnical insights to develop network concepts. In order to examine whether the gameplay would indeed meet our learning goals, we have set up a pretest-posttest experiment. In the experiment, a group of students that played Re-Organise, and a control group that did not play the game, but only learned about theoretical notions of symbiosis, were exposed to questions regarding the learning goals. We found that, by playing the game, the student’s comprehension about the relevant technologies had increased. They learned hands-on about different motivations of stakeholders to engage in symbiosis. In addition, students applied technological knowledge, and behavioural and motivational aspects to co-create new local supply networks. The experience accelerated the learning process, and gave more intricate knowledge and insight into shaping and sustaining symbiotic networks. This paper provides evidence about the positive effect of interactive learning through serious gaming on learning goals in sustainable education. Re-Organise provides a safe and rich learning experience for students, and enables students, and practitioners alike, to display creativity around the shaping of circular networks.