The SLENZ Update – No 89, May 25, 2009

Distance education with a difference

Otago Midwifery students to learn

about birthing in virtual world

Birthing Centre_002

Today, for the first time,  New Zealand midwifery students began  to enhance their regular study programme with learning in the virtual world of Second Life.

The 27 first year students and 23 second year students were introduced to the Otago Polytechnic’s virtual “model” birth centre (Te Wāhi Whānau), on the Government-funded SLENZ Project’s Second Life virtual island of Kowhai.

The students will be joined by another 15 third-year students in June as the School of Midwifery further develops the “blended delivery tools” it is using in its newly-revised midwifery education programme. Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and midwifery students will also join the virtual world part of the programme in June.

The students range in age from their 20s to 40s, with a variety of life experiences and varying degrees of computer literacy.

According to Dr Deborah Davis, the school’s principal lecturer, students will eventually access The Birth Centre from home via the Internet through Broadband links.

In February Otago Polytechnic in collaboration with CPIT began a new “flexible” programme which allows the students to remain in their home town or community while accessing course material on line and working alongside local midwives and women and meeting for face-to-face tutorials. Their virtual world experience will be part of this.

‘Intensives’ face-to-face

“They are supported by a midwife from their area who provides face-to-face tutoring and support,” Dr Davis said, adding that these students travel to the polytechnic for “intensives” (two weeks, four times/year) where they “focus on skills and other learning that is more suited to face-to-face” teaching.

Dr Davis said the virtual Birth Centre would also “provide an important learning opportunity for second-year students, who are currently focusing on the physiology of normal birth.

“While students are currently engaged in real life midwifery practice they may not have the opportunity to facilitate physiological childbirth in a home or home-like environment … we hope that the virtual birth centre will provide them with an immersive experience and one in which they start to feel the sense of responsibility and accountability that comes with being a registered midwife.”

Dr Davis said the virtual birth centre should also provide a useful opportunity for third-year students to hone and practice their midwifery decision-making skills while participating in an “apprentice” style year on clinical placements with midwives all over New Zealand.

The SLENZ Project, which is running two pilot education programmes in Second Life, is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand.

One Response

  1. Congratulations Sarah! All your hard work has paid off! I’ll look forward to hearing about the progress of the birthing unit — and would love you to contact me regarding an online tour in June.

    Cheers!

    KerryJ
    Education.au

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