I read with great interest Chapter 14 about virtual worlds; specifically, about the history of Second Life in education. I have a vague recollection of Second Life but learned much more reading this chapter. At the time that this was relevant in 2007 I was neither a student, education or early adopter of this virtual technology. My lesson from this concept was that with current 2020 technology and a renewed user interest in virtual and augmented reality games, (like Minecraft) aspects of the concepts of virtual worlds may see resurgence on a broader scale. As discussed by the author, it never really left in medical fields such as x-ray. Virtual reality (VR) in some form has been used for many years to run simulations before practicing on real patients. My program doesn’t have access to high fidelity x-ray simulation (yet), but this video shows a virtual x-ray being done through VR (https://virtualmedicalcoaching.com/) and it’s pretty accurate! I am not endorsing this company specifically but only mentioning it as an example of available products.
This sort of VR technology is also my second lesson that conflicts with current practice. This technology is expensive to implement into a specialized health care field. Each specialty needs their own specific program; x-ray, ultrasound, medical laboratory, respiratory therapy just to name a few. Current practice is achieving entry level competency by practicing care and treatment of real people under supervision in a clinical environment. Simulation is not currently considered a replacement for clinical practice, only an augmentation. With the current pandemic situation, some healthcare educators lost access to clinical experience completely and were left to scramble on how to reinvent an entire educational model. The current situation requires virtual world type technology in healthcare or there will be a gap of medical professionals for years to come.
Also as pointed out in some informal conversations with some of my colleague we came to the consensus that pedagogy comes before technology. Before investing money into expensive VR technology, there must be detailed consideration on how the technology will support learning and not get distracted by the new shiny thing.