Boston: A virtual computer-based world may be an effective environment for sharing experiences and exchange of ideas and information, a new study has found.
Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) demonstrated the potential of using a virtual computer environment for distance health-care education for an international audience that often has limited access to conventional teaching and training.
In the pilot project led by John Wiecha, corresponding author of the study and associate professor of family medicine at BUSM, a virtual world was created in which participants engaged in a learning activity by creating virtual avatars of themselves to navigate through a three-dimensional computer environment and engage in educational activities.
In many developing nations, access to traditional health care education can be limited as professionals may lack financial resources and live and work in remote areas with poor infrastructure or in a conflict zone, researchers said.
However, with the increase in Internet coverage in the past few years, distance learning has become an important way to offer health care professionals in these areas the opportunity to increase their clinical and research skills, they said.
However, many current on-line platforms for training and exchanging ideas like webinars and on-line discussion boards are two dimensional and limit the way educational information can be designed, according to the researchers.
A virtual world (VW) is an immersive, on-line environment that functions in real time for shared experiences and the exchange of ideas and information.
Participants in the project navigated the VW as avatars or three-dimensional representations of themselves.
They were able to follow the course director through a series of learning stations with questions and discussions occurring in real time.
The study appears in BMC Medical Education.