Digital tools in soil science related field studies: Training support and lifelong learning


The acquisition of professional skills can be helped by using digital tools (DT). The adaptation of the Spanish curricula to the European Higher Education zone has brought with it further demands to improve students’ foreign language performance. Any tool requires to be evaluated by potential users. We aimed to assess the usefulness for learning of two multilingual DTs, dealing with water quality for irrigation and fertigation planning through a case-study approach. Our hypothesis was that the tools will be useful for students, and also for professionals as Decision Support Systems (DSS). During three academic years, the DTs were evaluated in the context of regular university subjects, and in lifelong learning courses for professionals. A questionnaire with a Likert scale was completed by the DT users. The technical-scientific content, the pedagogical content, and the friendliness for users were evaluated. Data analysis was done by analysis of variance and according to the classes of user: gender, age, previous studies and current activities. Saving time in routine calculations using DTs brought benefits in lighter workloads for students, which was balanced with an increase in discussions. It also led to a sustained interest, even when the use of a foreign language was introduced. Time saving and the teaching content were also appreciated by professionals. The general average score given to the materials was 4.15 out of 5.The multilingual DTs designed for solving real-life problems were appreciated by students to support learning in agronomic engineering subjects and in foreign languages. The DTs can be disseminated to professionals, as they appreciate the up-to-date technical-scientific content as well as the effectiveness of the calculations.


• ABET. 2014. Criteria for accrediting engineering programs. Effective for reviews during 2015-2016 accreditation cycle. [Cited 2016 Oct 16]. Available from:

• Alston AJ, English CW. 2007. Technology enhanced agricultural education learning environments: an assessment of student perceptions. J Agric Educ. 48:1-10.

• Ayers RS, Westcot DW. 1985. Water quality for agriculture. Irrigation and drainage paper, 29. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

• Bar-Yosef B. 1992. Fertilization under drip irrigation. In: Palgrave DA, editor. Fluid Fertilizer, Science and Technology. New York: Marcel Dekker. p. 285-329.

• Bar-Yosef B. 1999. Advances in fertigation. Adv Agron. 65:1-77.

• Baveye P, Vermeylen F. 1994. The advisor-advise relationship in soil science graduate education: survey and analysis. In: Beveye P, Farmer WJ, Logan TJ, editors. Soil Science Education: Philosophy and Perspectives. SSSA special publication, 37. Madison, Wisconsin: Soil Science Society of America, Inc. p. 75-86.

• Bosch-Serra AD, editor. 2010. Avaluació de la qualitat d’aigua per a reg. (CD-ROM). Lleida: Edicions de la Universitat de Lleida.

• Bosch-Serra AD, editor. 2013. Fertilitat, fertilització i fertirrigació. (CD-ROM). Lleida: Edicions de la Universitat de Lleida.

• DAAM. 2009. Decret 136/2009, d’1 de setembre, d’aprovació del programa d’actuació aplicable a les zones vulnerables en relació amb la contaminació de nitrats que procedeixen de fonts agràries i de gestió de les dejeccions ramaderes. Diari Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya, 5457:65858-65902. [Cited 2016 Oct. 15]. Available from:

• DAAM. 2010. AAR/1418/2010, de 3 de maig, per la qual es dóna publicitat a l’aprovació de les normes tècniques específiques de producció integrada de fruita de llavor, fruita de pinyol, hortalisses, cítrics, fruita seca, olives, raïm per a vinificació, cereals d’hivern, cereals d’estiu, fruita seca elaborada i oli, així com els corresponents quaderns d’explotació i quaderns de conservació o postcollita de producció integrada a Catalunya. Diari Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya, 5623:35246. [Cited 2016 Oct. 15]. Available from:

• Davidovitch L, Parush A, Shtub A. 2006. Simulation-based learning in Engineering education: performance and transfer in learning project management. J Eng Educ. 95:289-299.

• Durward KS, Vikas KJ. 2004. The engineers problem-solving process: good for students?. In: Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition. Session 1331; June 2004; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. [Cited 2016 Oct. 15]. Available from:

• EACEA. 2012. The European higher education area in 2012: Bologna process. Implementation report. [Cited 2016 Oct. 15]. Available from:

• Hagin J, Sneh M, Lowengart-Aycicegi A. 2002. Fertigation-fertilization through irrigation. IPI Research Topic, 23. Basel: International Potash Institute.

• Hmelo-Silver C. 2004. Problem learning: what and how do students learn? Educ Psychol. 16:235-266.

• Kafkali U, Tarchitzky J. 2011. A tool for efficient fertilizer and water management. International Fertilizer Industry Association IFA and International Potash Institute IPI. [Cited 2016 Oct. 15]. Available from:

• Ley 2/2014, de 27 de enero, de medidas fiscales, administrativas, financieras y del sector público. Sec. I. Disposiciones generales de la Comunidad Autónoma de Cataluña. Artículo 211. Acreditación de los conocimientos de una tercera lengua. Boletín Oficial del Estado, 69:24529.

• Litchfield K, Javernick-Will A, Maul A. 2016. Technical and professional skills of engineers involved and not involved in engineering service. J Eng Educ. 105(1):70-92.

• McIlwee JS, Robinson JG. 1992. Women in engineering: gender, power and workplace culture. Albany: State University of New York Press.

• MECD. 2015. Datos y cifras del sistema universitario español. Curso 2014-2015. Madrid; Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte. [Cited 2016 Oct. 15]. Available from:

• Nordhoff H. 1999. Constructivism and technology enhanced learning. San Francisco: Rheiner Press.

• Phocaides A. 2007. Handbook on pressurized irrigation techniques. 2nd ed. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). [Cited 2016 Oct. 16]. Available from:

• Ramos C, Pomares F. 2009. Abonado de los cultivos hortícolas. In: Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino, editor. Guía práctica de la fertilización racional de los cultivos en España. Madrid: MARM. p. 181-192. [Cited 2016 Oct. 15]. Available from:

• Ruohomaki V. 1995. Viewpoints on learning and education with simulations games. In: Riis JO, editor. Simulations games and learning in production management. New York: Springer. p. 13-25.

• SAS Institute Inc. 2002-2012. SAS/TAT. Software v 9.2. Cary: SAS Institute Inc.

• Trevelyan JP. 2010. Mind the gaps: engineering education and practice. Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference for the Australasian Association for Engineering Education Sydney, Australia. [Cited 2016 Oct. 15]. Available from:

• Usón A, Boixadera J, Bosch AD, Enrique A. 2010. Tecnología de suelos: Estudio de casos. Zaragoza: Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza.

• Van Merriënboer JJG. 2013. Perspectives on problem solving and instruction. Comput Educ. 64:153-160.

• Waghmode ML, Jamsandekar PP. 2014. Decision support systems and its applications in different sectors: literature review. IJARCSMS 2:110-115. [Cited 2016 Oct. 15]. Available from: .

• Watts M. 1994. Problem solving in science and technology: extending good class practice. London: David Fulton Publishers.