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Open Access Highly Accessed Correspondence

Use of a virtual world computer environment for international distance education: lessons from a pilot project using Second Life

Marloes Schoonheim1, Robin Heyden2 and John M Wiecha3*

Author Affiliations

1 Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Villa Gran-Montfleury, Chemin du Grand-Montfluery 48, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland

2 Heyden Ty, 2500 San Jose Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501, USA

3 Office of Medical Education, Boston University School of Medicine, 72 East Concord St., B2900, Boston, MA 02118-2518, USA

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:36  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-36

Published: 21 February 2014

Abstract

Virtual worlds (VWs), in which participants navigate as avatars through three-dimensional, computer-generated, realistic-looking environments, are emerging as important new technologies for distance health education. However, there is relatively little documented experience using VWs for international healthcare training. The Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research (GFMER) conducted a VW training for healthcare professionals enrolled in a GFMER training course. This paper describes the development, delivery, and results of a pilot project undertaken to explore the potential of VWs as an environment for distance healthcare education for an international audience that has generally limited access to conventionally delivered education.

Keywords:
Medical education; Continuing medical education; Computer-assisted instruction; Computer aided instruction; Distance education; Computer simulation