Experiential Learning in a Virtual World
Second Life is a virtual world utilized by universities across the country for its educational benefits. Second Life activities are incorporated into many of the courses and augment both theory work and clinical experiences. An academic avatar is created for each student, who is able to navigate through the virtual environment of Second Life and interact with other students and faculty.
All of the necessary software and hardware for this virtual learning platform is included in the tuition. Students receive headsets so they can communicate either via the instant messaging function or through voice chat. Students receive training on how to navigate and communicate in the virtual world during orientation.
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Nursing has purchased several islands in Second Life for exclusive use by our students and faculty. These islands contain classrooms, faculty offices, a library, a re-creation of the Pollock Alumni House, a student welcome center, a public health office, a clinic and a hospital.
Faculty office hours are held in Second Life, allowing students to experience a “face-to-face” conversation with their instructors. Students participate in synchronous clinical discussions using Second Life, allowing for student interaction that is typically not possible in online programs.
Students gain experience doing health assessments by interviewing standardized patient avatars. Faculty read the patient script and the student is able to interact with the virtual patient. Students also have the opportunity to virtually experience a serious life-threatening situation, allowing repeated practice for students in an environment that cannot harm a real patient. In addition, students have the opportunity to virtually encounter rare but important situations they most likely will not experience in their clinical rotations, such as disaster scenarios, public health nurse home inspections, and other available activities.