Innovative, collaborative learning of anatomy in Second Life

[From Science Network Western Australia; more information and images are available at the University of Western Australia in Second Life blog]

UWA and UK collaboration in Second Life

[Image: Left to right: Avatars of Professor Stuart Bunt (UWA), Dr April Richardson-Hatcher (UK), D.Newton (UWA) and Matt Hazzard (UK) meet to launch the collaboration]

Virtual reality examined for tertiary science learning

A virtual reality teaching program by UWA and collaborators has received an international award for innovative learning using Second Life.

Saturday, 20 April 2013 06:00

Now with funding from UWA’s Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, Professor Stuart Bunt from School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology and student Khaleel Sunba, will explore how this 3D web-based environment can contribute to innovative changes in science teaching.

UWA’s virtual reality teaching website on Second Life began in 2009 and has already seen visual arts and architecture students meet online for lectures. Virtual tutorials in anatomy could be next.

“Being in Second Life is like being in between a website and a physical place,” says Prof Bunt.

Students could potentially meet online in a virtual classroom with the best 3D anatomy models, which can be studied from all angles.

“The idea is not to replicate real life but to take advantage of what you cannot do in the real world, like a big head model that you can go into and see a stroke happening,” says Prof Bunt.

“Like most innovations in education, it will probably turn out to be good for some very specific things.

“I don’t see it as a replacement, I see it as an adjunct to conventional teaching.”

The concept of virtual anatomy teaching in Second Life is still in it infancy and needs to be researched to understand where science education is going.

Mr Sunba explains it is also important to investigate how students perceive a shift in venue from a real campus to a virtual one.

UWA’s campus online was digitally constructed using the original architectural plans from the 1930s by Jay Jay Jegathesan.

It may look remarkably similar in Second Life but meeting, communicating and interacting with other students and teachers in the virtual world is likely to change the experience of learning.

The University of Kentucky in the US already uses virtual science teaching in Second Life as a replacement of real life teaching for pre-medicine students from across the country.

Prof Bunt and Mr Sunba are working in close collaboration with them to develop the best science learning platforms using the technology.

UWA and the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland’s collaboration received the European Case Clearing House Innovation award, and turned data collection into a collaborative treasure hunt in a three-dimensional world through which students navigated as avatars.

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