26 October 2009

Times Higher Education Awards


I recently attended the gala Awards dinner for the Times Higher Education Awards at London's Grosvenor House Hotel with Derby University colleagues and saw St George's University collect the award for 'Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year 2009'. Their Second Life project has been at the forefront of innovation utilising Daden's PIVOTE technology to train paramedics in the virtual world. The project was judged on its demonstration of an ‘innovative, strategic and potentially far-reaching use of ICT in support of the goals of that institution’. Key criteria were innovation, institutional impact and implications for the HE sector.


The award-winning project, launched in October 2008 and developed with the help of David Burden from Daden Ltd, helps to train paramedic students using problem-based learning (PBL) in the virtual world of Second Life. It sees students enter the virtual environment as paramedics on the St George’s Island, where they are immediately called to one of five different emergency scenarios. They work in small groups to assess and treat patients in the same way they would in the real world, before safely transporting them to hospital.


The virtual paramedics are able to replicate real-life tasks such as speaking with the patients, checking vital signs, dressing wounds and administering drugs. The scenario unfolds in response to their actions. Once they have reached the hospital, they submit handover notes on the patients, which are emailed to their real-life tutor for feedback.

Emily Conradi, e-Projects Manager, explained why the project has proved so useful to paramedic students: “Paramedic students spend a lot of time in work placements, which can be based anywhere in the country, so it can be hard for the students to meet face-to-face with each other and with their tutors. The advantage of Second Life is that it feels more real. Students get a sense of being there together and can decide what to do from what they can see in front of them.”


The application, developed by St George’s, is now available free of charge through Google Code to other institutions that wish to develop their own training courses. The universities of Coventry and Greenwich have already trialled the scenarios in their paramedic courses, and the concept has the potential to be used in other disciplines.

We've also used the PIVOTE technology at Derby University to set up Psychology Problem-based Learning scenarios. We plan to extend the technology to incorporated virtual chatbots and rudimentary Artificial Intelligence as the platform becomes more conducive to weaving in other server-based services.

Congratulations to St George's on a well-deserved win.

Note: Some of the above text was taken from St George's webpage

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