Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely our own and not necessarily those of our employer or any other occupational therapist.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Second Life Research

Some of you may be aware that Sarah and myself have been working on a Second Life project for the last year.  As part of a successful bid to engage in a project for the VC’s Media City Iconic projects award we have developed (together with Lee Griffiths - Lecturer in Computer Science and Joe Brindle Post Graduate Computer Science student) an environment within a multi-user virtual environment (Second Life). This takes the form of a home environnment (complete with kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, stairs and furniture) and encourages the user to consider basic apects of access, occupational participation and potential envioronmental adaptations for a wheelchair user.

The first phase of the house has been completed and we have now received ethical approval to carry out a qualitative research project with some of our undergraduate students to consider their experiences of learning in this enviornment. It is expected that these results, together with the Systematic Literature Review currently underway (by our Summer Scholarship student Alex Moss - recent occupational therapy graduate from Queen Maragaret's University in Edinburgh) will inform the project further with plans for a quantitative comparative study in the pipeline and work with both education and practice environments.

Potential Benefits to HCP and Students

Most health care professionals have an element of experiential learning in their pre-registration programmes in order that they can have the opportunity to practice new skills and behaviours in a tangible, reality based but safe environment (Pimental 1999). Unfortunately the organisation and implementation of such learning experiences can be extremely resource intensive in relation to staffing, time, costs and equipment or facilities, and the experience must be carefully guided and facilitated in order to focus student engagement (Lai et al 2005)

Potential Benefits to Service Users

Service users with long term serious disabilities often experience occupational alienation, and part of their rehabilitation is to embed within them a sense of self efficacy and control in managing their own environments and activities (Wilcock 1998). This can be difficult to do in the real world, again due to time and resourse constraints, as well as a need for careful risk management

A virtual or therapeutic experience could address such challenges and the use of innovative technologies to address health care education and practice is encouraged (DOH 2009, Freeman 2008, NHS Faculty of Health Informatics (2008). JISC certainly encourages innovation in providing "technology-rich learning environments that are sustainable, accessible and reflect an understanding of the learning styles, preferences and diversity of their users" (www.jisc.ac.uk) . Whilst as yet there is not an extensive body of research exploring the use of virtual worlds in heath care education or practice, Kashani et al (2009 p5) recommend that health care professions be involved in collaborative research with developers of virtual worlds by "approaching disciplines that incorporate the influence of cultural, social and physical environments, such as occupational therapy in order to develop "more inclusive user interfaces".

Whilst there has been some research in this area (Freeman 2008, Kashani et al 2009) the issue of experiencing occupational participation and deprivation in a virtual way has not been extensively addressed.

Sarah and I are currently getting ready to recruit our participants from our new undergraduate intake. Induction to the Second Life experience has been planned and - fingers crossed- we are ready to roll. We'll keep you informed how we get on.

DOH (2009) New education Bodies created to promote innovation in the NHS - http//www.dh.gov.uk/en/News/Recentstories
Freeman D (2008) Studying and treating Schizophrenia Unsig Virtual reality: A new Paradigm. Schizophrenia Bullitin. 34(4) 605-610 /DH_110419
Joint Information Systems Committee. (2007). Game-based learning. E-learning innovation programme. Briefing papers. http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/publications/pub_gamebasedlearningBP.aspx accessed 5.3.10
Joint Information Systems Committee (2010) http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/topics/learningenvironments.aspx accessed 5.3.10
Kashani, R.M., Robets, A., Jones, R., Boulos, M.K., (2009) Virtual Worlds, Colllective Responses and Responsibilities in Health Journal of Virtual Worlds Vol 2 Number 2
Lai CH Yang JC Chen FC Ho CW Liang JS and Chan TW (2005) Improving experiential learning with mobile technologies. In Proceedings of the IEEE International Workshop on Wireless and Mobile Technologies in Education (WMTE2005) 141 145. IEEEE Computer Society press, Los Alamitos, CA.
NHS Faculty of Health Informatics (2008) The power and perils of using social networking tools in the NHS. NHS Faculty of Health Informatics: London.
Pimental J R (1999) Design of net-learning systems based on experiential learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning network 3 (2) 64-90
Wilcock, A. (1998). An occupational perspective on health. Thorofare NJ: Slack ink. (Chapter 6)
University of Salford Strategic Plan 2009/10 to 2017/18, (2009). http://staff.salford.ac.uk/transforming/documents/university_of_salford_strategic_plan.pdf