In June 2018, the fictional country of Petronia, which serves as the namesake setting of a first-of-its-kind online interactive course on resource governance, made a potentially transformative oil discovery.
One year later, Petronia’s creators—the Natural Resource Governance Institute and Saffron Interactive—are celebrating. The course has been recognized as the top e-learning program by International E-Learning Association. This award puts formal recognition to a successful year of NRGI’s foray into online, interactive learning.
Nearly 7,000 online participants from Angola to Colombia have logged on to join the game’s team of external advisors, who are on a fact-finding mission in Petronia. The advisors hear from citizens, the media, government and corporate decision-makers. They then advise Petronia’s president on getting a good deal that is in the long-term interests of Petronian citizens.
Some of Petronia’s advisors—the course’s online participants—have discovered the oil-rich country through other NRGI capacity development work, as part of programs ranging from the massive open online course, Natural Resources for Sustainable Development, to in-person trainings. Others found out about the game through academic coursework or social media.
A cross-section of stakeholders have enjoyed the Petronia learning journey.
“I came across Petronia when I was exploring online for resources for new lawyers in the company, or those who moved from a different sector,” said Thean See Xlen, legal counsel for Petronas Malaysia. “The missions cover the whole life cycle of oil, from first discovery to developing, which I myself haven’t been around long enough to see! I am a gamer in my free time, and I work in oil and gas during the day so I can speak from both perspectives when I say there are not many games like this available. It is unique.”
Civil society leader Nelly Busingye, Publish What You Pay’s regional coordinator for East and Southern Africa, called Petronia “captivating” and noted the convenience of participants learning desk-side.
“The way it is developed; the style gets your attention,” said Busingye. “This tool is especially good for non-technical people—it synthesizes and demystifies resource governance in a good way and puts you at the table to think like a government minister, an advisor, or an investor.”
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment legal researcher Tehtena Mebratu-Tsegaye said the course’s different elements gave it a dynamic and unique feel.
“You have explanatory-animated videos, but you also have the materials you can dig into for further reading, and you have your briefcase where you can keep your different materials if you need to refer to them later,” she said. “I think the thing that stands out to me the most is helping students to understand the different competing interests. That’s the most unique part for me and I think that’s what the students got the most from.”
Students and professors also weighed on Petronia’s usefulness.
“This game is very informative and provides practical guidance in managing and monitoring the oil and gas sector, and the issues/challenges that should be taken into consideration when developing a policy,” said a student at South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, where professor Hudson Mtegha integrates Petronia in the post-graduate mineral policy and investment course.
Through Petronia, Mtegha encourages students to draw out lessons learnt from the oil sector in to apply to their mining studies. Students learned that participation, especially at implementation stage is critical. Transparency is also critical for all mineral activities and other countries’ best practices are applicable and essential.
Most importantly, 94 percent of those who took a survey after the course said that their understanding of resource governance improved. If you haven’t already joined the team of advisors, there’s no better time than now: accept your first mission with the president here. And if you’re an educator looking for ways to integrate this tool into your coursework, reach out to me, Lisa Morris, for ideas and sample lesson plans.
Lisa Morris is a capacity development officer: learning specialist with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).