Using Second Life for Medical Education

All kinds of health services, from prescriptions and consultations to self-treatment programmes, are increasingly being provided via the Internet. It’s also possible to use it for educational and therapeutic purposes. In principle, “virtual reality therapy” should be the ultimate type of cognitive behavioural therapy. Wraparound sound and image multimedia headsets allow you to experience a cliff edge, soar in an aeroplane thousands of feet high or be surrounded by hundreds of spiders—depending on your fear. Furthermore, I believe that the best kind of online education is one that is totally interactive, case-based, and student-driven, all of which I now incorporate into my classes in Second Life.

Jaron Lanier created the term “virtual reality” in 1989 to characterise computer simulations of real-world settings. For most business users, the state of personal computer graphics has advanced well beyond their demands since the mid-1990s thanks to the video gaming industry and 3D graphics card makers. The capabilities of these systems range from simple 3D object presentations to whole virtual cities. Personal computers are now frequently equipped with virtual reality systems for a wide range of purposes. Second Life, created by Linden Lab, Inc., is a popular virtual reality programme. Any Internet-connected computer can enter Second Life, an open-ended virtual environment. In Second Life, individuals represent themselves by creating “avatars,” or animated characters. To get around in virtual environments, avatars are used by people to interact with each other and other avatars. Despite the system’s heavy reliance on video game technology, there are no points, levels, quests or anything to win. Basically, it’s a place where individuals may practise creating virtual communities, simulating natural occurrences like earthquakes and hurricanes, or studying human behaviour. Since about a year and a half, I’ve been doing freelance work in Second Life.
From Harvard Law School to the American Cancer Society, Second Life’s users include a wide range of educational institutions. In the virtual world, there are currently regions that provide services such as teaching heart sounds and auscultation method, giving social assistance for those with Asperger’s Syndrome, and modelling the effects of tsunami on coastal cities. More than 10 million people throughout the world have free basic accounts in the system. Of the 800,000 total users, roughly 80,000 are actively using the system at any given moment. Education is increasingly turning to virtual reality applications like Second Life, which may be utilised for everything from disaster planning to medical teaching. For educators and trainers interested in using Second Life for distance learning or large-scale training, Linden Lab now runs the Second Life Education Wiki, which serves as a resource for them. Government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation have begun using Second Life for meetings and training sessions, as well as exploring ways to make information more widely accessible. According to a comprehensive survey done by the New Media Consortium, most educators in Second Life utilise it for educational objectives, including teaching and taking classes, as well as for faculty training and development. – New Media Consortium

For the past few years, I’ve been utilising Second Life as a teaching and learning tool. To better understand the experience of psychosis, I collaborated with colleagues to construct a “virtual hallucinations” setting that allows individuals to experience both visual and aural hallucinations; images and voices. Students in the fields of medicine and psychology learned about this experience thanks to our utilisation of this setting. Virtual bioterrorism crisis clinics for health workers have been built with the help of the California Department of Health and other partners, and recently we have taught informatics students in a virtual conference centre on our own private island; Davis Island. As soon as our informatics students were introduced to Second Life, they were able to travel and tour the virtual world with the rest of us without any problem at all.