Deep Thoughts, Education in Virtual Worlds, Second Life

Medical Education in Second Life: Pros and Cons

One of the nascent professional spheres in Second Life is medicine and medical care. While nothing can truly replace the physical doctor-patient relationship, there is room for growth in virtual worlds for the medical community.

Walter van den Broek, a Dutch psychiatrist who blogs as Dr. Shock, recently wrote a post weighing the strengths and weaknesses of virtual worlds for the medical community. He writes that virtual worlds “may serve as an adjunct or pre- or post-learning tool” instead of replacing the interaction mentioned above.

As for strengths, van den Broek finds at least eleven. The major advantages he cites include the ability to create unique 24/7 environments that open up access to difficult situations and body spaces; the promotion of creativity, networking and interactivity; and the use of role-playing and simulation. As for weakness, he finds a few, namely that the use of virtual worlds is uncharted and that the positive outcome of the creation of these spaces and the use of avatars has not yet been proven.

He concludes:

“Clearly empirical research is needed for future use of virtual worlds in healthcare training and general education. Striking challenges facing developers of virtual worlds and serious gaming for educational purposes are ownership of collaborative work and certification of authorship. Both of these issues pose a problem for evaluation for learning outcomes.”

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