Last night was the first time I took midwifery students through the Second Life normal birth scenario which has been developed by the Second Life Education New Zealand team.
Interactive learning in Second Life
I am conscious that the main complaint about the virtual birth unit has been that it is not very interactive so I am keen to introduce students to the scenario as soon as possible before they lose all interest in the birth unit. I am also keen to take a ‘teach the teachers’ approach to this – to get a few students experienced in using the scenario so they can encourage and mentor their classmates and my involvement decreases as time goes by.
My strategy for disseminating information about the scenario this week is to initially use Elluminate, as this is a platform that students are more familiar with. Then I offer students the opportunity to go with me into Second Life and ‘have a play’. Three students turned up to the first meeting last night. All students were from Christchurch Polytechnic. I talked about the scenario for about 10 minutes and then took the students to Second Life.
I took the student through the first scene. Helping them set themselves up and being with them as they worked through the first scene took nearly two hours. It was very intense because the students had so much to learn in terms of working out the technology. It was also hard to juggle two people at the same time, but I tried to ensure that one person was always occupied with reading instructions or with an action as I supported the other person to get sorted.
Light, camera, action
It took a while to get the students sorted with their huds and the student who played the pregnant woman, to get her ‘pregnant shape’. But once they were sorted, they quickly got into the role play of the telephone call. I have to say that the students were absolutely fantastic. On the one level they had me in fits of laughter because they acted the scene so well. Ffion was very persistent as the anxious mother-to-be – I just wanted to tell her to relax and take a chill pill. Mina who played the midwife was very reassuring and a lot more patient with Ffion than I would have been :)
On a more serious level, they were able to engage with a scene that will face them many times as a ‘real life midwife’. Indeed, I had replicated that phone call earlier in the evening to a woman who thought she was in labour at the maternity unit where I am currently working as a locum midwife. The beauty of this scenario and role play in Second Life is that students can experience the authenticity of the scene and learn from it, but are unable to do any harm to the woman. And because they have supporting visual tools and resources the role play is a lot more immersive than it would be if they were carrying out the role play in the classroom.
It did take time for the students to get the hang of the technology and the scenario and I think it was invaluable to have me around to support them. I am going to advise the students to give themselves at least an hour and a half when they first engage with the scenario. In turn, I was grateful to have Clare Atkins around to support me. However, as we all become more and more familiar with the scenario, both myself and the students will become a lot more confident and competent. Indeed, just last night I learned a couple more tips – how to see what I am wearing and how to turn off the noise I make when I take snapshots.
It is imperative that the students read all their instructions before they start so that they not only understand the technology but they also appreciate the background to the scenes. I made the mistake last night of not fully reading the instructions for the pregnant woman, and consequently Ffion was unable to take off her pregnant shape. So she has been left pregnant until I get advice about how to remedy the situation.
I am going to advise students to read the instructions in Wikieductor before they enter Second Life with their partner. Hopefully, this will save time and better prepare them before they get going.
Who will the scenario benefit?
What is interesting to me is that the students who came along with me last night were first year students. These students have had little clinical midwifery theory – this comes in the second year of their program. Consequently, the scenario was not designed with them in mind. However, last night the students were able to pick up the scene and run with it. What I am looking forward to seeing is how they cope with the more complex scenes. Ultimately, it does not matter that they have not had the clinical midwifery theory at this stage. They can work their way through the scenes, guess what they have to do and ignore what they have no knowledge about. As I have said already, they won’t be doing any harm and no doubt they will learn as they go. Indeed, this scenario may better prepare them when they do get the theory that these scenes are based on next year.
How students will use the scenario
An interesting contrast will be the reactions of the first year students to the scenes compared to the second and third year students who have had both clinical theory and practice. The first years will be learning for the first time; the second and third years will be using the scenario as more of a revision tool.
I will be continuing with the evening introductory sessions for the rest of the week and giving a face-to-face demonstration at Otago Polytechnic on Monday. Then it is over to the students.