Virtual Reality Medical Education in Second Life

Increasing numbers of people are using the Internet for the provision of all sorts of health services, from prescribing, through consulting to setting up automated self-treatment programs. But what about using it for education and therapy? After all, in theory, the ultimate form of cognitive behavioral therapy should be “virtual reality therapy.” By simply wearing your wrap-around sound and vision multimedia headset you can be instantly transported to a cliff edge, soar in a plane thousands of feet above the ground or be surrounded by a gathering of thousands of spiders – depending on your phobia. And the ultimate form of online education should be fully interactive, case based and student driven, all of which I now use in my teaching in Second Life.

The phrase “virtual reality” was coined by Jaron Lanier in 1989 to describe computer simulations of physical environments. Since the mid-1990s, the video game industry and 3D graphics card manufacturers have driven forward the state of personal computer graphics, advancing it far beyond the needs of most business users. These systems range in capability from simple displays of 3D objects to entire virtual cities. Virtual reality systems are now being routinely implemented on personal computers for a variety of activities. One of the most popular virtual reality programs is Second Life, produced by Linden Lab, Inc. Second Life is a general-purpose virtual world accessible through any Internet-connected personal computer. In order to interact in Second Life, users create “avatars”, or animated characters, to represent themselves. Individuals use these avatars to maneuver through various “worlds”, complete with buildings, geographical features, and other avatars. While the system borrows heavily from video game technology, it is not a game – there are no points, no levels, no missions, and nothing to win. It is simply a platform by which people can create virtual communities, model geological, meteorological, or behavioral phenomena, or rehearse events. I have been working in Second Life for several years now.

Users of Second Life include a variety of education organizations, from Harvard Law School to the American Cancer Society. There are currently areas of the virtual world that provide such disparate services as teaching heart sounds and auscultation technique, providing social support for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, and modeling the effects of tsunami on coastal towns. The system has over 10 million account holders from all over the world, most of them with free basic accounts. Approximately 800,000 of those users are active, with over 80,000 of them connected to the system at any time. Virtual reality programs such as Second Life are increasingly being used for educational purposes in a variety of fields, including medical training and disaster preparedness. Linden Lab currently operates the Second Life Education Wiki which functions as a source of information for educators and trainers in a variety of fields who wish to use Second Life for distance learning or large-scale training purposes. A number of government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation, have begun using Second Life to hold meetings, conduct training sessions, and explore ways to make access to information more readily available around the world. A recent comprehensive survey intended to gather information on the activities, attitudes, and interests of educators active in Second Life conducted by New Media Consortium reported that the majority used it for educational purposes such as teaching and taking classes as well as for faculty training and development.

I have been using Second Life as a teaching and learning environment for several years now. With colleagues I have created a “virtual hallucinations” environment, which demonstrates the lived experience of psychosis and allows participants who travel through the environment to experience both visual and auditory hallucinations; visions and voices. We used this environment to teach this experience to our medical and psychology students. With the California Department of Health and other colleagues I have created a virtual bioterrorism crisis clinic to train health workers, and more recently, as part of our Health Informatics Certificate Program, with University of California Davis Extension, we have taught informatics students in a virtual conference center on our own private island; Davis Island. Students find the environment straightforward to learn to navigate, and within a week of our informatics students being introduced to the environment they were able to travel and tour around Second Life with the rest of us with ease.

Second Life and similar multi-user environments offer enormous possibilities in the medical educational world, where such applications are now called “serious games” rather than social or fun software. Students of the future will adapt to them very easily, and it is clear that applications such as Second Life have a great educational future before them. I look forward to continuing to teach classes of medical and graduate students “inworld”.

Offerings of a Medical Education Training Campus

A Medical Education Training Campus gives students the opportunity to support this country by being part of the world’s most advanced military healthcare staff. The campus unites service men and women from different parts of the armed forces. This gives them the chance to receive the necessary military medical training to advance their careers.

At METC, students can pursue training in various medical fields. They can study nutrition and diet therapy or try for a degree related to dental services, nursing, diagnostic services, healthcare support, or any public health services. The credit that students earn at these places can be simply transferred to other learning institutions. Also, all of the degrees that are offered within this category will give students all that they need to obtain a civilian job in these fields. Since METC is geared at training members of the military, their training may be a bit different from the normal training that is given at conventional schools for healthcare.

For example, students will learn how to execute medical missions. This gives them the skills that are necessary to finish activities like giving immunizations, ordering medical supplies, and getting patients to safer areas. It is important to remember that those who provide military healthcare must treat patients in many different categories including civilians, service members, coalition partners, and enemies. All of these individuals must be treated equally. Every student is trained in the ways that they must respond in various scenarios. In the big picture, METC graduates provide medical care that is very similar to the care given by other healthcare providers. The only thing that is different is the settings that they work in. Therefore, students at the Medical Education Training Campus learns how to work specifically in hostile conditions they may occur during uncertain times.

Sometimes members of various parts of the military may need different skills. For example, an Army medic should know how to move patients on ships during times of evacuation. Navy Corpsmen should know how to load casualties onto a MEDEVAC. Throughout training at METC, students are taught basic evacuation steps that are not stressed at normal civilian medical schools.

Even though there are differences between civilian schools and METC institutions, military personnel receive top training. In many instances their training is even more intense than hose of other institutions. METC has pride that they pass down high standards that help them stay on the cutting edge of medical teaching. They are always dealing with changes in the field and predict changes before they occur.

To keep abreast of trends in medical technology, METC administrators partake in workshops and seminars with those in the top of the public medical health system. This lets METC improve the curriculum that they offer.

Students who enroll at the Medical Education Training Campus are guaranteed that they will get top education that uses state of the art technology. This school is well equipped with the newest tools in all of the areas it is involved with. For example, classrooms all have notebook computers, smart boards, and black boards to teach material clearly to all students. Individuals who are planning to partake in field training will have access to tough notebook computers that have been made exactly for this purpose. During study, these students know that their dorms are filled with CAC enabled computers. When they can not attend class, they can get training online. If questions arise, they have a live chat option to request help. Students can view podcasts of lectures as well.

Students at the Medical Education Training Campus will receive a degree in many different medical areas. This degree will give them the needed skills which will support the healthcare needs of those in the military. It also provid