I bet you’ve been in a situation where you’ve hoped someone, child or adult, would get off their phone or their gaming device. Well here’s a new video game that you’ll be encouraging everybody to play – especially Wisconsin dairy farmers, their employees, and extended partners! Mooving Cows!
Dr. Jennifer VanOss, assistant professor and extension specialist in the UW–Madison Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences and Dr. Nigel Cook, project co-lead from the UW-School of Veterinary Medicine, collaborated on this project for more than five years. VanOss tells Pam Jahnke that what they noticed about employee/owner training on livestock handling mostly came from reading materials or videos. It wasn’t engaging, and there really wasn’t a “hands on” element available. With feedback from actual farms, the process evolved into teaching people about cow behavior and how to practice basic cow handling skills to stay safe and keep cows calm.
So why a video game? VanOss says it offered a couple key components.
- “Serious games” have produced positive learning outcomes in contexts such as professional and military training, educational classrooms, and in health-behavior education.
- Serious games result in better learning and retention compared to conventional instructional approaches.
- Games allow players to experience situations that would be challenging to create otherwise, due to barriers such as cost, time, or safety.
- The setting will be safe for both people and cows. Animal welfare is further enhanced by replacing the use of live animals with simulated ones as players practice their skills.
There’s a few other reasons why a video game worked to the advantage of dairy operations where there’s multiple employees, with differing backgrounds or familiarity with dairying, and potential language challenges. VanOss says the video platform addresses many of them.
- Play on mobile touchscreen devices, including phones, tablets, and Chromebooks.
- Tutorials introduce key concepts step-by-step, with narration.
- To maximize accessibility, the written text is minimal.
- Choose to play in English or Spanish. Switch between languages at any time.
- Active learning – “learning by doing”.
- Opportunities to learn by making mistakes.
- Visualization to help convey concepts, such as the “flight zone.”
- Immediate feedback on your actions, plus end -of-level feedback.
Ultimately, it’s about people WANTING to complete the process and leave with some meaningful information that impacts their job, their performance and obviously, the outcome for the animals.