Monday, June 25, 2012

Will the Virtual Birthing Unit ever make a come-back?

The other day I gave a talk in Second Life (SL) to the American Association of University Women,  Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University, about midwifery in New Zealand, and the Virtual Birthing Unit, at the invitation of Dr Sharon Collingwood.

This was the first time I had been in SL for ages. I was very nervous about it, especially because there is now a new viewer. But I got around OK, and there were no technical hitches.

Learning in virtual worlds
My talk was the usual one I give about the challenges we face in educating midwifery students, and how simulation in virtual worlds such as Second Life can provide opportunities for authentic, yet safe learning. However, the Virtual Birth Unit has not been taken up in a global sense, because it was really a bit before its time ie it was too complex and time-consuming for lecturers and students who only had limited digital skills.

The future?
The issues that impact on the provision of adequate and quality clinical experience for healthcare students are not going away.  And as educators become more experienced with online technologies, and more programs are delivered in a blended way, I think the Virtual Birth Unit will come into its own.

I am not sure if it will be successful as it is - it may well be "re-born" in another form, in other virtual worlds such as Open Sim. And clearly there are a lot of things about sustainability to think about, when embedding an initiative such as this in an education program. But for the first time in over 18 months, I am feeling a lot more positive about the future of the Virtual Birth Unit and simulation in midwifery education.


sheena said...

Hi Sarah, interested to know more about Second Life?

Sheena said...

Hi Sara, I am interested to know more about SL?

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Sheena, have a look at the paper I wrote with Deborah Davis: On the MUVE or in decline: Reflecting on the sustainability of the Virtual Birth Centre developed in Second Life

and then have a look at the SL website: