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Med Students Use Second Life to “Treat” Patients

March 30 2009 | by

Medical students are learning to navigate a full-service hospital — complete with sick patients — through a 3D Virtual Reality world. At Imperial College London, the students are treating patients in Second Life, the free Internet world where users interact through online alter egos.

The pilot is part of a program for game-based learning, which educators believe can be a stimulating change from lectures and textbooks — and perhaps cadavers. According to CNN, “The aim is to develop a more engaging learning environment, rather than just replicate what you have in real life,” said Maria Toro-Troconis, a senior learning technologist at Imperial College London. “Game-based learning plays a very important role.”

Game-based learning has been considered as a new way of delivering clinical teaching more suited to the new generation of users of computers, video games, mobile phones, and the Internet. The program is designed to resemble Imperial College London. There’s a 3D replica of the landmark Queen’s Tower and signs pointing students toward the respiratory ward. No talking is allowed, unless it’s through their alter egos.

After arriving at the hosptial, and yes, washing their hands, the students enter a patient’s room. They are able to order X-rays, diagnose and treat their patients.

Imperial College is looking into possible partnerships with other universities around the world.


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