E-Learning Supports European Customs in Fight Against Drug Traffickers

The fight against illegal drugs is a high priority for governments and citizens of the EU. The frontline of this campaign involves officers of the EU Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD), who use intelligence, analysis, investigative and legal skills in their efforts to prevent the traffic in illegal drugs from violating EU borders. Caspian Learning has developed training simulations for custom officers that are now being deployed in 27 EU countries.

Serious Problems Require Serious Gaming

The fight against illegal drugs is a high priority for governments and citizens of the EU. The frontline of this campaign involves officers of the EU Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD), who use intelligence, analysis, investigative and legal skills in their efforts to prevent the traffic in illegal drugs from violating EU borders.

Key training requirements include increasing the national customs administrations’ awareness of drug precursors (chemical substances used in the manufacture of drugs) and teaching customs officers how to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of controls in each specific customs context – land, air and sea.

Drugs traffickers are extremely sophisticated, continually adapting their methods and utilise new technologies to achieve their goals. The skills demands on customs officers are high. To meet this challenge, TAXUD demanded a radical change in the delivery of EU training, and the decision was reached to deploy Serious Games to help develop the required skills. Serious Games are seen as producing intense engagement and learner motivation because they involve deep learning scenarios and problem solving in the context of realistic environments for real skills practice. In terms of evaluation, they also deliver precise performance measurement and feedback for learners.

Digital 3D Simulations Provide the Solution

Caspian Learning developed six unique training simulations for customs officers. In each, the learner controls an avatar within a highly realistic computer generated 3D environment. Each simulation provides the learner with a different scenario in which they must examine shipments entering the EU. The officer-gamers see the consequences of every decision they make – which is crucial because ultimately, each scenario could result in illegal drugs being released into EU cities.

Using their avatars, the learners are able to interact with the scenario – talking to colleagues, asking questions, examining shipments, accessing databases, searching cargo, and making decisions. Based upon the user’s actions and judgement, the scenario unfolds in non-linear ways, challenging the users’ skills in a wide variety of situations.

The scenarios engage the learners in deep learning that demand a mix of information gathering, problem solving and practical skills. The learners are able to make mistakes in a safe environment that enables them to review their work and to reflect upon their judgements.

Detailed scoring, diagnostics and feedback are built into the fabric of the game. The performance model measures decision making, knowledge, analysis, and expertise that are based upon the real actions, decisions and judgements made or not made by the user.

This was the first large scale project of its kind for the European Commission. The project was developed using Thinking Worlds, a rapid authoring tool for Serious Games and Immersive Simulations. Using Thinking Worlds, EU subject-matter experts worked directly with instructional designers, who – due to the sophistication of the software involved – required no programming skills to build and deliver the scenarios.

EU-wide Compatibility

The scenarios were translated into local languages for EU member states and packaged as SCORM objects for integration within any learning management system, which resulted in easy data reporting. Deep learning through Serious Games scenarios that are easily delivered through the web browser to learners appears to be part of the future of professional education and training in the EU.

Christopher Brannigan from Caspian Learning Ltd., UK, will present the case study on December 4th, 11:45 – 13:00, in session VAR49: EU 3D: STRG ALT DELETE.

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