1 RMIT University (AUSTRALIA)
2 James Cook University (AUSTRALIA)
3 University of South Australia (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2012 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Pages: 5999-6000 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-615-5563-5
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 6th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 5-7 March, 2012
Location: Valencia, Spain
At RMIT University, medical imaging, nursing, chiropractic and mental health professionals came together to create a virtual learning experience in Second Life. While simulation learning is not new, having been widely adopted in a range of disciplines such as architecture, business and medicine, the concept of three-dimensional (3D) avatar simulation was a new learning and teaching strategy for our four disciplines.
The study aimed to:
1) investigate the use of a 3D simulated environment as a learning platform for health science students to develop effective communication skills with patients; and
2) promote interdisciplinary learning and understanding amongst healthcare students.

To achieve the first objective, the module was offered in four separate components, linked together via a single patient journey - the journey of a patient who was experiencing difficulty in breast feeding her baby. The patient was first seen by the Lactation Consultant, who then referred the patient to the Chiropractic and Mental Health clinics and the Medical Imaging department. Students from each discipline role-played the interactions that occur between the healthcare practitioner and patient.
To promote interdisciplinary understanding and learning, students were required to participate in blog discussions designed to engage them on issues such as professional roles and responsibilities. Students were also required to observe and reflect on the role-plays from other disciplines.

This presentation will report on the flexibility and challenges of virtual world learning, learning value, student engagement, and impact on clinical practice. In summary, preliminary findings from this study support those of a 2010 pilot study (Sim et al. 2011), where students found avatar learning to be highly effective in assisting them to develop empathy for patients. Furthermore, our results highlighted the increased interdisciplinary understanding students have obtained from participating in blog discussions, with medical imaging students showing the greatest difference in terms of improved understanding. While students reported virtual world learning to be fun, interactive and stimulating, a majority identified technological problems they encountered to be extremely frustrating, preventing them from engaging in deeper learning. These findings were consistent with the case studies reported by Bloustien and Wood (2011).

This presentation will demonstrate the potential of 3D simulated learning environments for engaging learners while also highlighting the challenges and strategies educators need to adopt to maximise the benefits for learning. Findings from this study suggest several strategies that need to be addressed to mitigate some of the negative experiences and maximise the affordances of such unique learning environments.

Bloustien, G. and Wood, D. (2011). Facilitating flexible, enquiry-based experiential learning through an accessible, three-dimensional virtual learning environment (3DVLE). In Australian Learning & Teaching Council Final Report. New South Wales: Australian Learning & Teaching Council
Sim, J., James, J., McDonald, M., Scutter, S. and Wood, D. (2011). “The use of 3D simulation learning in healthcare disciplines: a pilot study” in 8th ASMMIRT 2011 ‘The Perfect Blend’, Adelaide, South Australia, April 14-17.
Virtual learning, interdisciplinary learning, healthcare disciplines.