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CIT establishes virtual classroom

Canberra Institute of Technology's commitment to innovative vocational education and training has led to the establishment of the virtual classroom - a simulated three dimensional environment which allows students to learn through exploration of a computer-simulated virtual world.

The establishment of the 'Virtual Worlds for Health' program is both collaborative and innovative, and aids to meet skill shortages in the health professions through the use of cutting-edge technology and the online environment 'Second Life'.

Through a $330,000 grant from the (then) Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and in response to the Australian Government's 'Targeting Skills Needs in Regions' program, CIT develop the 'Virtual Worlds for Health' project, which uses the 'Second Life' online environment to provide a virtual learning centre.

In collaboration with Canberra's Academy of Interactive Entertainment, the project was supported by ACT Health, Greater Southern Health Service, Riverina TAFE and the ACT Infection Control Society.

The pilot program was tested in 2009, and the results presented at two international conferences in 2010. The resulting 'Virtual Worlds for Health' program engages participants in real-life workplace scenarios, events and activities, and most importantly enables them to influence their surroundings and see the outcomes of their actions, exactly as they would in the workforce. For example, CIT nursing students have the opportunity to engage and interact with a patient having a psychotic episode in a three dimensional environment in a way that is risk-free to both patient and practitioner.

The program is currently being used in four health-related qualifications, the Diploma of Alcohol and Other Drugs Work, the Diploma of Community Development, the Diploma of Community Welfare and the Diploma of Youth Work.

The project has established strategies which will inform the future of virtual worlds in education. It is a starting point for the development of immersive e-learning at a national level, and a demonstration of the potential of 3D e-learning as an educational tool.

The next stage of this project is focused on the development of facilities for simulated learning environments and providing opportunities for centre staff to gain skills in developing and running simulations and debriefings, role plays and developing highly-immersive environments. Using the gaming platform 'Second Life', centres across CIT are beginning to construct scenarios and role plays, which are being trialled with students in different areas of CIT.

This project has positioned CIT as one of the leaders in next generation technology in an education environment, as part of CIT's commitment to continue to improve the delivery and experience of vocational education and training.