Developing an unfolding virtual reality experience: A collaborative institutional approach to innovative education

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

Virtual reality experiences provide healthcare students an opportunity to practice professional and technical skills in contextualized environments leading to increased confidence in clinical practice. This session explores the collaborative process of designing and implementing an unfolding virtual reality experience within an institution.  

Extended Abstract

Virtual reality experiences have been integrated into healthcare education to improve student performance and prepare them for clinical practice. Reduced anxiety, increased confidence, and the opportunity to practice technical skills in safe environments are some of the positive benefits touted in favor of integrating virtual reality in healthcare education. Research on virtual reality’s use in healthcare education is limited in scope, with most literature situated in medical and nursing education. Few examples of the integration of virtual reality in allied health professions exist making it challenging for allied health educators to use this highly effective modality for enhancing student success and engagement. The contextualized practice of clinical skills to prepare students for the real world is necessary for all healthcare professions, and further development of virtual reality experiences relevant to different healthcare practitioners is required to continue to improve patient care and enhance healthcare student preparation for practice.

The development of virtual reality experiences for healthcare education has largely fallen to major publishers and companies who sell their technology to institutions for use. Limited access and high cost, along with the cost of the actual physical technology needed to implement virtual reality experiences, creates a barrier for many institutions to adopt virtual reality in their curriculums. Bringing the development of virtual reality experiences in-house may allow institutions, and specific healthcare programs, to develop more cost-effective, and specialty-focused virtual reality scenarios for their programs. However, most healthcare educators lack the resources and knowledge to create their own virtual reality experiences. Fortunately, many institutions are growing learning design teams that can support the development of more innovative educational modalities.

This session will highlight the steps required to develop a virtual reality experience in-house, and the reactions of students to using virtual reality as an educational modality. The session will explore the opportunities and barriers for the development and integration of virtual reality experiences and the pedagogical approach to developing an unfolding virtual reality case study to further increase the contextualized nature of the experience. Perspectives of the faculty developer, experiential learning designer, and students will be shared with participants. An example planning document will be shared with participants to facilitate in-house development at other institutions.

Despite the growing access to virtual reality technology on campuses, and increased investment in learning design teams post-covid, allied healthcare educators lack models for collaborating with institutional resources to develop virtual reality experiences. Faculty from an occupational therapy program at one institution aimed to develop a virtual reality experience in collaboration with the learning design team to support the development of student confidence for practice. An unfolding virtual reality case design was used to engage students across the curriculum. An unfolding case study leverages storytelling strategies to further contextualize the virtual reality experience and facilitate the transfer of learning as students develop a deeper knowledge of discipline-specific concepts. An intentional focus of the virtual reality development was to blend the need for students to practice both technical and professional skills in each experience. Debriefing exercises were designed and implemented to engage students in metacognition and self-evaluation processes to further learning. Ongoing research on the effectiveness of the unfolding virtual reality experience and student success will be discussed with participants as a platform for collaboration and brainstorming.

By the end of this session, participants will identify opportunities and barriers to integrating virtual reality experiences at their institution. Participants will receive a sample template of a virtual reality storyboard and key questions to consider if they choose to develop a virtual reality experience.