Dutch Police Build Virtual City

Natascha Blijleven-Tebbe

Police officers have a lot of work to do in the imaginary city of Behrloo. The virtual territory embraces a variety of realistic problems: traffic accidents, illegal hemp cultivation, car explosives, identifying victims and many more. Using the multifaceted learning tool, students at the Dutch Police Academy can apply their competences via scenario-based, interactive and non-linear cases. At Security and Defence Learning 2008, project manager Natascha Blijleven-Tebbe, Dutch Police Academy, will lead participants through the serious gaming environment, also addressing the role of teachers as content developers.


Behrloo, the Dutch Police Academy’s serious gaming environment gives a realistic image of police work. In 2002, the Academy switched from its modular and traditional education to a more competence-based learning platform, also searching for new, future-oriented electronic learning tools to support this effort. However, there was no programme on the market that met the criteria the Academy, in close collaboration with teachers and students, had set. Thus a decision was made develop a proprietary tool, and Behrloo was the result.

The objective was quite ambitious: Students should be able to learn wherever and whenever they want. Furthermore, they should be given the opportunity to practice their competences in an authentic and realistic environment and in doing so, learn more about cases that are not always at hand in the police force. Moreover, Behrloo was supposed to allow them to experience situations that in reality are very dangerous, for example dealing with explosives – mistakes included.

At present, Behrloo consists of twelve cases, most of which are quite complex. Students determine their own direction

Behrloo City Map

or what actions and in what sequence they want to undertake them. During the case, students are confronted with the consequences of their actions in order to learn from them. This also implies that if you do not do anything, nothing will happen. Time is also a crucial factor. In the case of traffic accidents, if victims are not attended to, they will die.

All these factors make Behrloo similar to an educational adventure game, but one that is very serious in its learning objectives. The programme is meant to address social and cognitive skills alike. When, for example, the police officer is obliged to notify someone about the death of a relative or acquaintance, imprecise messages or insensitive questions can result in a conversation that leads to unnecessary stress and discomfort for both the messenger and the recipient.

The learning scenarios are based on contructivist theories. This means the virtual cases are built around a realistic problem, increase in difficulty, depend on prior knowledge, are transferable to realistic situations and demonstrate new tasks and competences, whether virtually or by a teacher in a blended-learning setting.

The setup for this modular programme includes additional tools for case development, enabling teachers to influence the learning process as content developers who are independent of the company that built the game engine and development tool.

According to Blijleven-Tebbe, students have responded to it very well so far, stating that it allows them to act as they would in real life situations. The result is that Behrloo has become lively community that continues to grow. The Academy is currently planning to add at least five new cases per year. Students should be allowed to cooperate directly in a case – something that has not been possible so far. In the near future, Blijleven-Tebbe and her team want to develop complex multi-disciplinary caseswhere police students can cooperate with, for example, student firefighters.

Natascha Blijleven-Tebbe will speak at the Security and Defence Learning forum on Wednesday, December 3rd. At OEB, she will present the virtual city Behrloo together with Eric Kramer from TriMM Interactive Media, The Netherlands, in session GAM61 on Friday, December 5th, 14:30 – 16:00.

The virtual city of Behrloo https://behrloo.politieacademie.nl

Security and Defence Learning 2008 http://www.security-defence-learning.com/

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