What is eCity?
eCity is an international project that provides a virtual city environment for engineering Problem Based Learning.
The difficulty that many secondary education students have with mathematics and other science topics is a widespread problem in Europe, as shown by several international comparative studies like PISA or TIMMS. This prevents these students from following a technical academic path such as engineering. This is not due to lesser skills on the part of these youngsters but mostly to ineffective teaching strategies. One shouldn’t forget that this generation is the "net generation" of "digital natives": youngsters quickly absorb information in shorter chunks, they expect instant responses and feedback and they want to be active in their learning.
Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a learner-centred pedagogy in which students develop their ability to go through a problem-solving process, usually based on real-life situations. Engineering is one of the areas where PBL is a valid learning alternative and reportedly the benefits for engineering students are considerable improvements in critical, lateral and creative thinking, problem-solving skills, group collaboration and communication skills. In a convergent path, games and simulations can be instantiated for learning as they involve mental and physical stimulation and develop practical skills – they force the player to decide, to choose, to define priorities, to solve problems, etc.
The main objective of the eCity project is to design, develop and validate a pedagogical methodology, supported by an online, collaborative, city-development simulation engine (similar to SimCity) that stimulates the integration and continuous exploitation of Problem Based Learning in engineering schools but, at the same time, fosters interest in engineering in secondary school students.