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Published: 2022-06-16

VR - The future of teaching

FEATURE New times mean new technology. VR or virtual reality as it is abbreviated, is a relatively new technology that is about creating virtual rooms that are perceived as real. It gives the feeling of doing things for real, even though it takes place in a fictional room. Can this technology be applied in teaching? How could that be? Markku Haapamäki is a chief physician and senior lecturer who takes the new technology into the classroom and gives us an insight into what it might look like.

Text: Heléne Andersson

VR has been around for a while, but then mainly in the gaming industry. The video game world has long worked with VR technology, but the rest of the market has not yet fully understood the breadth of what this technology can offer. When we asked how Markku came up with the idea, it was precisely in a conversation about computer games.

- I was in conversation with my son, who did his project work with computer games in 3D VR. Then I asked him, can you do that? says Markku.

Unlimited opportunities for training

When his son Kim said yes, the idea was hatched, which will now pave the way for new opportunities in teaching. Kim, who then attended the Master of Science in Engineering program, is today included in the project as a programmer, together with a colleague. Markku built on Kim's knowledge and together they have now developed VR opportunities in emergency care. The project is called Immersive 3D 'Virtual reality' (VR) simulation for education in emergency healthcare. Care of trauma patients and introduction to the emergency room and has recently received a Grant of SEK 500,000.

What is the ambition of the project? 
"We want to create unlimited opportunities for training trauma care in a virtual environment," Markku says. 

Markku, who teaches in semester 7 at the medical program in Umeå, explains that the idea is that the students can borrow a pair of VR glasses for two weeks when they have their surgery placement. But in addition to the medical students, he also sees that it will be used by emergency doctors, trauma leaders and professionals who belong to an emergency team. 
"A potential user group is also that the students on the IKK course (Program for International Crisis and Conflict Management, editor's note), and as a training module for the nurses in the emergency room," says Markku. 

The possibilities are many 
It is possible to create different rooms, and different cases depending on what the purpose is. The project money from Punktum will be used to turn the software into an Open Access application where the basic version includes a patient case. At present, there is an emergency room in the application that is built just like a real emergency room with the right equipment and medications. In there, the students get to practice where the medications are, what they are called and what they are used for. Then you can program different scenarios with patient cases. 

"If you want more patient cases, there will be a cost, because a trauma doctor has to plan and programmers have to create them," Markku explains.

I can´t let this opportunity go 

Markku's focus going forward will be to create more patient cases for students during Semester 7. But he is happy to help others who want to create other rooms and other cases. 
"I can help them with the contacts," he says. 
As I said, it takes a programmer to help if you want to create new training rooms. For example, for the IKK course, you can create an injury site. It requires planning and a lot of work. 
Although technology has existed in, for example, the gaming world, this is something new in healthcare. 
"When the discussion first came up, I thought, I just can't let go of this opportunity," Markku said. 

In the research he has done, it turns out that the U.S. Army used VR technology and trained soldiers in the field in Afghanistan. The reason it works so well is that everything you need is programmed in the glasses, which are like a small computer. 
- The only thing you need is free floor space. You don't need any internet, no power and no light," Markku explains. 

Medical programs of the future 
During the fall semester, the project will begin to be tested a bit, with some volunteers. The future plan is to be able to launch it as a planned step at the earliest during the spring semester-23. 
The program itself is self-instructing and does not require a teacher to get started. However, there is a plan for scheduling a one-hour teacher-led debriefing after the internship period. During it, students get to discuss with each other about their experiences. 
"Research shows that debriefing is important for learning, so the plan is to have an hour of teacher time in a group," Markku said. 

Just like in the game world, students will be able to accumulate points, where they will see which ones are top 10. It becomes like a competitive element, which means that many will probably train until they are the best. 
"The idea is that it will trigger them to train a lot," Markku said. 

The idea is not to take away from the traditional KTC-based practice 
VR teaching does not make the teacher's role disappear. 

"Someone told me, so you should remove both the teacher and the room from the classroom," Markku laughs. 

But the idea is not to remove proven important elements, but rather to supplement with fun virtual exercises. The practical examination and training is done by the students during their AnIVA placement during semester 7. During the operation placement, they are then allowed to train the same things but virtually. The total time for scheduled studies does not increase for the students because some other part of the surgeon placement is removed in favor of the VR training. The amount of training is likely to create safer doctors and nurses when things get sharp. 
As far as he knows, Umeå is the first to bring VR into teaching and healthcare. Markku hopes that more people in healthcare in Sweden will discover the opportunity that VR does for teaching and learning. 

"The technology exists and now we have paved the way for how it can work," says Markku.