Every year, January brings the largest event in the global simulation calendar: IMSH. This year, we were excited by the ongoing and mounting interest in virtual reality simulation and improved learner outcomes.
At IMSH this year we noticed a marked shift in the awareness and understanding of VR simulation in the wider simulation community.
Back in 2019, people were asking, “What do you mean exactly when you say ‘VR?’”. This year we were instead asked “VR has been around for a few years… what’s it good for?” and “Is it practical enough to be used meaningfully for sim?”.
These are excellent questions.
Here, we look at some of the ways that VR sim can be used to; create efficiencies, optimize data and encourage flexible learning – including some of the crucial concepts to consider when looking to implement a VR platform in your simulation facility.
Doing More with Less
Physical (mannikin-based) simulation involves significant overhead costs. Research has shown that faculty/admin hours, equipment, maintenance, space, and consumables contribute to an average cost of $390 to deliver just one traditional simulation session(1–3).
In contrast, immersive VR is instantly scalable, allowing institutions to deliver more simulation experiences to their learners at a greatly reduced cost. Because VR simulation is repeatable and can be used without faculty supervision – meaning engaging clinical experiences can be provided using fewer valuable resources.
One recent study showed “no significant differences in quantitative measures of learning or performance” in VR vs. physical sim, but demonstrated that VR sim was more affordable(4). Institutions have capitalized on using VR to deliver sim that is 5 – 50x cheaper than physical sim.
The ultimate goal of using VR for sim is to increase access to this incredibly powerful teaching method and make simulation part of everyday life (not just when learners are in the sim center).
When seeking to implement VR sim, make sure you consider whether or not you are looking for a faculty-independent platform that will free up the time needed to run simulation sessions, as not all solutions offer this.
Supporting Data-Driven Simulation
Collecting information about a learner’s performance and behavior during physical sim can be time-consuming and often requires subjective input. Using standardized simulations in immersive VR allows educators to deliver more simulation experiences whilst leveraging the data-tracking and analytic power of a technology-based system.
This push towards data-driven learning experiences makes 2020 one of the most exciting times to be working in simulation and is empowering institutions to further the use of sim in ways previously considered impossible.
The most immediate – and important – use of this data is to support the performance improvement of learners. However, these analytics can further be used to research clinical behavior, supplement assessment techniques, and aid in recruitment processes.
Sim educators have historically struggled to show the economic impact of their efforts. Now, for the first time in history, having simple access to the type of data VR-based systems offer allows instructors to justify sim implementation to key stakeholders who are increasingly asking simulationists to “measure the effectiveness of what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.”(5)
Platforms that offer standardized and peer-reviewed VR scenarios allow for detailed, personalized, and thorough analytics. Creating custom content in VR is undoubtedly appealing and may be useful in certain cases, however it removes the possibility of having rich, scalable feedback across cohorts. Implementing a broad range of standardized scenarios may provide you with the same variations as building your own, without compromising the levels of feedback you can give to learners.
Meeting Demands of Flexible Learning
Studies are increasingly finding that immersing a learner into a virtual world via a Head-Mounted-Display (HMD) has a greater impact on educational outcomes than screen-based learning(6). However, as simulation becomes a part of everyday life and distance-learning options are increasingly in favor, institutions need a way to deliver these simulations when VR hardware is not available.
Meeting the evolving educational needs of hospitals and universities means using a virtual reality platform that can support immersive VR sim in addition to an identical screen-based experience.
As you consider approaching a hybrid VR-immersion/screen-based implementation, evaluate whether or not your learners will also need to use VR for group-based simulations, individual learning sessions, and multiplayer for interprofessional simulation experiences.
We’re excited to see how our partners – and the wider sim community – will continue to advance the use of virtual reality in simulation in 2020. For more information about how VR simulation can work for you, contact us here.
- McIntosh (2006). Simulation: What does it really cost?
- Iglesias-Vázquez (2007). Cost-efficiency assessment of Advanced Life Support (ALS) courses based on the comparison of advanced simulators with conventional manikins.
- Pottle (2019). Virtual Reality Medical Simulation: Economic Evaluation and Return on Investment. Available on request.
- Haerling (2018). Cost-Utility Analysis of Virtual and Mannequin-Based Simulation.
- Waxman (2019). SSH March Presidential Message.
- Krokos, Plaisant, and Varshney (2019). Virtual memory palaces: immersion aids recall.