Saturday, August 1, 2009

Virtual 'follow-though' for midwifery students

In my previous post I was pondering how we could make the learning experience of student midwives more social in Second Life.

Pregnancy in Second Life
One of the things I am learning is that there are a number of people who role-play pregnancy and birth in Second Life. I have been reading the blog of Sai Pennel who has just started her SL pregnancy. Her thoughts on why she is doing it and what other people may think about it is fascinating.

My question is: how can we hook up with women who are having virtual pregnancies? Is there any way we can bring these women together with student midwives to enhance the learning of students, and add to the women's experience.

Then it hit me...why don't we do what we do in 'real life'?! Arrange 'follow-through' experiences where a student midwife works with a pregnant woman in Second Life, just as we do in 'real life'.

The student could attend the woman's ante natal checks and birth, and be around when she has her new baby. And the joy of a SL pregnancy is that it only usually lasts a few weeks.

Learning communication skills
The key learning would be how to communicate and build relationships with women the students have never met before, which is the focus of their 'real life' follow-through experiences.

The down-side of this idea is the aggravation of organising it - it is hard enough organizing real life 'follow-throughs'. I have no idea how many women role-play pregnancy so have no idea if we'd be able to get enough SL follow-throughs.

Virtual life working alongside real life?
But as we sometimes struggle in 'real life' to get the students adequate experience, maybe following a virtual pregnancy is an alternative idea. What do you think?

If you are a pregnant woman in SL, would you be prepared to work with a student midwife? If you're a student midwife, what do you think of the idea? What do you think are the potential problems with this idea?


Carolyn said...

I think this is a great idea however there are a lot of issues I think. I may be wrong but i think most SL virtual birth centres and pregnancy clinics are American with perhaps a few from the UK. The context is so very different from the New Zealand experience. This would add a whole other level of complexity to the relationship which would already be fairly challenging for newbies to SL.
I think it would be possible to overcome these issues and to establish really useful learning activities doing this but as you say, time is a big factor. If there was some marvelous beneficiary out there who could pay people to develop up these sorts of resources it would be fantastic. Ultimately someone has to pay for this development, whether it is voluntary hours or if it is funded through grants.

Leigh Blackall said...

What a nice idea. Great to see you thinking up ideas around using what already exists in SL.. and I have a hunch this sort of activity will have a bigger impression on learning.

Perhaps the way to go about it is to create a poster in SL and drop it around the various places people would go to initiate pregnant avs. They would click the poster which would ask them to send their details to an email address. That email address could be to a database, but better to be a real person who will reply straight away with questions of when they would like to see a midwife. The good thing about email is your admin person could handle it. When they have a time set, they simply let the FB group know, or send through you to assign someone to it.

It would be good to advertise in non SL places too. There might be people just thinking about the idea when reading a 2D web page.. and seeing the ad there might just be enough to convince them to give it a try.

And if you go with that snapshots into FB idea I was describing a few weeks ago, it markets itself.

Sarah Stewart said...


I don't think we need to worry about money too much - my idea involves linking into what is already happening. We won't be paying the women's birthing costs - all the student have to do is meet with the women & accompany them where ever they go. I think the main cost would be having someone do the organising, and of course the educators would need to take time to keep an eye on what was happening.

As for your other point about different birthing contexts,'re right...but then again, SL is a different birthing context. I think the focus of the experience would have to be development of communication skills as opposed to monitoring midwifery practice.

@Leigh I wouldn't see that we'd have much problem getting women to take part with a little proactive advertising. The challenge I see is how to integrate it into a midwifery education program so that everyone felt 'safe' and they had positive learning experiences, including the women.

Terry Neal said...

@Carolyn and @Sarah I thought of two things when reading what you said
- re the international differences - can that not be seen as a plus as much as a minus, both in terms of reflective practice and recognising that students may not want to work in Balclutha (no sure why that one popped into my head, you get what I mean) all their lives.
- to me the time issue can best be dealt with by embedding it as a 'proper' learning activity, rather than an add on. This raises the question of what individuals or the team will remove because they believe that using this learning approach will achieve that learning better. Of course, as we have talked about many times, for distance learners, they are much more selective about if they join in or not, for all activities, not just SL.

Replying to myself now - the more action that occurs in SL, the more return a learner gets for overcoming the initial barriers.

Sarah Stewart said...

Totally agree with your 'note to self' :)