Integrating virtual reality into the curriculum

Sponsored: A HumanEyes case study, by Dr Jordan Tsigarides

Educators all over the globe have seen the incredible potential that virtual reality and 360-degree video possess to enhance pedagogy and stimulate the learning of our students.

Often, it takes small pockets of innovative teachers to take the initial ‘leap’ and experiment with this new and alien technology. However, as I hope to show you, taking steps to integrate VR can be immensely rewarding and much less resource intensive than most expect.

At Norwich Medical School in the UK, our Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery course is producing the doctors of the future. Our 5-year course incorporates a broad range of pedagogies from didactic seminars to student-centred PBL sessions to simulation training, where experiential learning is key. Although as medical educators we are attempting to appeal to our millennial students with technology-enhanced learning, unfortunately we are the ones who are often resistant to change.

However slow we might be to embrace it, change in the educational context often starts with a problem that requires a solution.

Our problem was the overwhelming impact that the introduction of simulation-based training had on our students.

Simulation-based training has become a widely-employed teaching method in undergraduate medical education, providing safe and supportive experiential learning. However, for inexperienced students, they can often find this type of session daunting and stressful as it is a completely alien environment with a lot to take in. This added stress can often reduce motivation, increase extraneous cognitive load and lead to reduced learning. I wanted to help my students prepare for these sessions in an immersive and transformative way.

Virtual reality seemed to be the perfect fit.

Dr Jordan Tsigarides

Prior to this project both myself and my colleagues had zero experience with this technology. However, I could see that VR would be an effective way to allow my students to feel immersed within a virtual simulation session, without the pressure of having to ‘perform’ in front of their peers. We therefore purchased the VUZE stereoscopic 360-degree camera and filmed two 360-degree videos with faculty within the medical school. Following this, in a flipped learning approach, I showed these immersive videos to students prior to their simulation session using affordable virtual reality headsets and student owned smartphones in small group sessions. The students were astounded by the realism of the experience. Occasionally, they would reach out to try to touch aspects of the 360-degree scene due to the immersivity of the virtual simulation. All students felt more prepared for their practical simulation teaching, examinations and wanted more VR content in the future. Since taking this step to integrate VR, I’ve found it an invaluable resource for creating further content for our problem-based learning sessions and have used it to teach surgical trainees about the human factors involved in operating theatres.

Drawing from my experience with VR in education, I would recommend the following five steps to start integrating into your curriculum:

1. Define your educational problem. Consider how VR can enhance your current teaching. 

2. Think about the pedagogy. Use this as a backbone to create meaningful educational material, relevant to your group of students.

3. Start small with a manageable project that you can develop. Set yourself a timeline and achievable goals.

4. Start creating content yourself and encourage your students to create their own content.

5. Trial different methods of implementation and evaluate. Consider small group teaching with an emphasis on debriefing with your students after the VR experience.

The hardest part of innovation is taking the ‘leap’ to try something new. I would encourage you all to take this step into the world of virtual reality and give your students a window into the future of education.

To learn more about VR Horizons and how Universities, Colleges and Secondary Schools across the world are using the Vuze VR Camera to more effectively teach the principles of VR and its power to create immersive experiences head to VUZE.

 

BIO
Dr Jordan Tsigarides is a medical doctor at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in the UK. Alongside his clinical work, he has a role at the University of East Anglia teaching on the medical programme. He has a passion for innovation and technology-enhanced learning, using virtual reality to push the boundaries of traditional methods.