A computer-based virtual world could prove to be an effective learning environment.
Researchers have demonstrated the potential of using a virtual computer environment for distance healthcare education for an international audience that often has limited access to conventional teaching.
In this project, a virtual world was created in which participants engaged in a learning activity by creating virtual avatars of themselves to navigate through a three-dimensional computer environment and engage in educational activities.
The project was led by John Wiecha, an associate professor of family medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).
The study is published online in BMC Medical Education.
Many current online platforms for training and exchanging ideas like webinars and online discussion boards are two-dimensional and limit the way educational information can be designed according to the researchers.
A virtual world (VW) is an immersive, online environment that functions in real time for shared experiences and the exchange of ideas and information.
Participants in the project navigated the VW as avatars or three-dimensional representations of themselves.
They were able to follow the course director through a series of learning stations with questions and discussions occurring in real time.
"We created and delivered, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the Geneva Foundation for Medical Educational Research Foundation, an interactive lecture on population control, for students from around the world," said Wiecha.
"The easy exchange of ideas with people from all over the globe gave the course a uniquely collaborative feeling.