Students at Imperial College London are now able to practice diagnosing and treating patients in a virtual world on Second Life.

Third year students are able to access a virtual hospital that has been set-up and designed to look exactly like the College’s own facilities to replicate the experience of being a clinician on a hospital ward.

The game-based learning project takes students through the real processes expected in a hospital environment. They can check-in at the reception desk, put on a badge and receive an assignment.

The project also focuses on hygiene issues, making sure that students virtually wash their hands before visiting patients.

Maria Toro-Troconis, senior learning technologist at Imperial College, who developed the game-based platform, told E-Health Insider: “This is definitely the most cutting edge project that we have running.

“We had a look at what was available about three years ago and it was all just a replication of what you can get on a normal website. By developing this we are really pushing the boundaries.”

Toro-Troconis said the idea behind the virtual world was to make students think about the tests and treatments they use and enhance patient diagnosis skills. The virtual world offers safe environment, where any mistakes made will not cause patients any harm.

However, when EHI asked her if she was concerned that students may not feel the consequences of making mistakes she said: “It is by no means a replacement for traditional learning. We know that we cannot replace patient contact and students would not be happy if we took that away from them.”

Imperial College began trialing the project in a pilot that started in March last year, when it received positive feedback from the 43 student participants. Now the second phase of the pilot has been launched, allowing 350 third year students to use the 3D virtual world.

Toro-Troconis is looking at the possibility of partnerships with other colleges across the country. She said: “It would be great to have different people interacting and communicating in one online game and we have plans to do that with other medical schools.”



Second Life