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Design and evaluation of a 3D virtual environment for collaborative learning in interprofessional team care delivery
Cooperative learning in interprofessional team care delivery across different healthcare courses and institutions is constrained by geographical locations and tedious scheduling. Three dimensional virtual environments (3D-VE) are a viable and innovative tool to bring diverse healthcare students to learn together.
The aim of this study is to describe the development of a 3D-VE and to evaluate healthcare students' experiences of their collaborative learning in the environment.
A mixed methods study design was employed. Participants from six healthcare courses (Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, and Medical Social Work) were recruited from three institutions to form six interprofessional teams to participate in team care delivery via a 3D-VE. Pre- and post-tests were conducted to evaluate the students' attitudes toward healthcare teams and interprofessional collaboration. Four focus groups were conducted with 27 healthcare students after they completed questionnaires to evaluate their perceived usability, the sociability of computer-supported collaborative learning, and senses of presence. Interview transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis.
The students demonstrated significant improvements in their attitudes toward healthcare teams (p < 0.05) and interprofessional collaboration (p < 0.001) after the collaborative learning. Four themes emerged from the focus group discussions: “feeling real”, whereby the students felt immersed in their own roles; the virtual environment was perceived as “less threatening” compared to face-to-face interactions; “understanding each other's roles” among different healthcare professionals; and there were some “technical hiccups” related to sound quality and navigation. The participants reported positively on the usability (mean 3.48, SD 0.64), feasibility (mean 3.39, SD 0.60) and perceived sense of presence (mean 107.24, SD 17.78) of the 3D-VE in supporting collaborative learning.
Given its flexibility, practicality, and scalability, this 3D-VE serves as a promising tool for collaborative learning across different healthcare courses and institutions in preparing for future collaborative-ready workforces.