Crop simulation models (CSMs) are mathematical, computer-based representations of crop growth and interaction with the environment. They play an important role in scientific research and resource management, and have been used to help students understand, observe, and experiment with crop systems. At the start of a new decade, it is timely that an assessment of these experiences in education is made. This paper synthesizes the positive and negative experiences in education to provide guidelines for using CSMs in computer laboratories and the classroom. Peer-reviewed literature, electronic media, personal experience and communications, and student perceptions were used to assess CSMs impact in education. Advantages for students are numerous. Advantages also exist for educational institutions. However, there are also disadvantages for students and educational institutions may struggle to use CSMs effectively. In general, CSMs should be used as an adjunct to, rather than as a substitute for other teaching methods. Instructors should maintain sufficient dialogue with students. Exercises developed for use with CSMs should encourage cognitive advances by the student. Visual appeal and clarity of CSMs should be ensured with standardized interfaces and graphical, dynamic representation of results. Input and output values should be in units appropriate to the topic of study or the country of use. Default values for parameters and online help, explaining the science behind the CSMs are important. The CSMs are valuable tools in education. However, they must be properly integrated into the teaching program and appropriately used by instructors.
Graves, A.R.; Hess, T.; Matthews, R.B.; Stephens, W.; Middleton, T. Crop simulation models as tools in computer laboratory and classroom-based education. Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education (2002) 31: 48-54.