E-learning gets its game on
Virtual simulations bring together Athabasca University’s (AU) teaching and IT expertise to create new opportunities to augment knowledge through enriched clinical experiences. Winning the “game” of e-learning means improved patient health and continued evolution of health-care practice.
Half-way through your online module it hits you: You’re having way more fun than you expected. You’re expanding your knowledge, practicing skills, and can’t wait to see where the “game” takes you next.
Scenarios like this make Dr. Barbara Wilson-Keates happy. The academic coordinator at AU’s Bachelor of Nursing—within the Faculty of Health Disciplines—blends her extensive nursing, clinical, and research background with expertise in e-learning to work on the leading edge of health-care education: virtual gamification.
Her 10-15 minute virtual simulation “game” starts with a scenario detailing a patient’s situation, and asks what priority actions should be taken for that particular patient. Students have several options, each leading to a different outcome. Make the right choice and the game continues; choose wrong and it ends. At every point, students learn why their choice was right or wrong.
“Whether you call it e-learning, virtual simulation or virtual gamification, this kind of approach is particularly effective in nursing education,” Wilson-Keates said. “It augments clinical teaching—it doesn’t replace it—and ensures students are exposed to many different situations.
“It’s particularly useful for high-risk, low-frequency or emergency events, ensuring that all students have the same clinical experience.”
The power and pull of virtual simulations lie in their accessibility and increased student engagement. Games can be completed any time, from anywhere, at students’ convenience. Because patients are never at any risk, students are more inclined to act more quickly and decisively.
“Research has shown that you learn most effectively by being actively engaged,” Wilson-Keates said. “Virtual simulations enrich learning by doing.”
They can also help nurses respond to rapidly emerging health issues. Addressing vaccine hesitancy, for example, Wilson-Keates and FHD colleague Kristin Petrovic are developing an audio scenario in which a community health nurse discusses the issue with parents.
“In the real world, it might be hard to have that conversation, but if students have heard it, when the situation arises, they’ll be better prepared,” she said.
Gamification’s ultimate winners are patients and health-care practitioners.
“Patients receive better, safer care when nurses better understand them and their needs,” Wilson-Keates said. “And because nursing is constantly changing and expanding, this helps open up new career pathways.”