SLENZ Update, No 127, August 13, 2009

SLENZ Project

Arwenna, Petal find the  light

at the end of the SL Tunnel …

Sarahmidwif“Authenticity of the scene” … inside the Birth Centre. (picture Sarah Stewart)

“The first words I heard were, ‘This is so much FUN …’

The listener was Arwenna Stardust (RL: SLENZ Project co-leader Dr Clare Atkins) and the words were from one of the midwife trainees “learning real lessons” at the Otago Polytechnic  Birth Centre on the Second Life SLENZ  island of Kowhai:  they summed up just what learning in a virtual world should be.

Arwenna, in the blog that  she doubted she  would ever be able to write “many times over the last few months””,  details how she was able to watch and listen in as the first of the midwifery students used the birth centre.

Her post entitled  “Finally – it all comes together! Midwives and SL” is  inspirational.  It demonstrates  again there is really light at the end of the virtual world education/training  tunnel.

Coupled with  lead educator Sarah Stewart’s (SL: Petal Stransky) post, “Students’ first experience of the Second Life normal birth scenario,” Arwenna’s post shows that, in Clare’s words,  “this is perhaps the closest (student midwives)  will get …  to the ‘real’ world  (for some time) and for them it seemed real but it also allowed them to make mistakes, ask for reassurance from Sarah and … to learn from her instruction and guidance.”Stewart, Sarah

For her part, Sarah (pictured right) says, “They were able to engage with a scene that will face them many times as a ‘real life midwife’ …  the beauty of this scenario and role play in Second Life is that students can experience the authenticity of the scene and learn from it, but are unable to do any harm to the woman. And because they have supporting visual tools and resources the role play is a lot more immersive than it would be if they were carrying out the role play in the classroom.”
But read both posts for yourself. I think you will find them worthwhile, particularly if you are feeling disheartened by the perceived difficulties with launching  an education or training programme in a virtual world. There is a light at the end of the virtual tunnel.

The Midwifery Pilot, as part of the Otago Polytechnic’s School of Midwifery, is one of three pilot programmes being run by SLENZ Project, which is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand.

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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.