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Why you’re using your immersive simulation space all wrong, and how to fix it - Sim & Skills

Why you’re using your immersive simulation space all wrong, and how to fix it

You’re using your immersive healthcare simulation space all wrong!

Define: 'Immersive'

seeming to surround the audience, player, etc. so that they feel completely involved in something

‘Immersive’, when applied to health education is a vague term and is often used as a marketing buzzword so I’m going to try to break it down.

In healthcare simulation, there are two areas where immersion is used effectively:

  1. Live-action scenarios/roleplay – simulated events using manikins or actors either in-situ in a clinical area or in a simulation suite equipped to the same specification as a clinical area.
  2. Virtual reality – headset or screen based simulations. Usually undertaken alone (though that is changing), VR simulators for clincial decision-making and patient communication are a cost-effective way to scale your simulation activities.

What is an interactive immersive learning space?

Immersive spaces can be used to blend these two methodologies together to form a Mixed Reality (MR). Learn more about MR and other simulation methodologies in Health Education England’s A description of simulation-based techniques relevant to education and practice in health and care Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL). Immersive spaces are a blank canvas in room form, be it a traditional lecture room with four walls, a floor and a ceiling, or a mobile/pop-up space with temporary walls or a tent.

The walls are blank, ideally covered with specialist paint designed to enhance the projected image quality. The space is equipped with 3-5 projectors which project 360-degree images/video onto the walls and floor, surronding the learner in a virtual environment.

The blending occurs when the manikin-based scenario is performed in the immersive room, hopefully enabling the scearnio to be enhanced by the manipulation of the training environment.

What are immersive education spaces used for?

In healthcare education, immersive space technology has been marketed as a way to ‘transport’ learners from one environment to another in a few clicks.

The first time I saw an interactive immersive space, it was in a university. They had invested heavily in their medical and nursing simulation programme and were immensly proud of the their glaring white empty room.

The software was fired up and within a few minutes I was surrounded by a beautiful winter scene, supposedly designed to prepare paramedics for treating a casualty in an austere environment. You could even touch the wall and ‘snow’ would gather on your arm.

I spent 10 years in the ambulance service, and I can assure you, if snow is gathering on you, you’re doing it wrong. I can also assure you, no amount of projected images prepare you for 12 hours in wet socks! 

The next example they showed me was a nightclub scene, complete with thumping music and lights flashing in the darkness. This was MUCH more realistic; it was hard to see (immersive rooms are always dark anyway, to accommodate the projection), hard to communicate, and it felt like a stressful working environment.

Simulation is about suspension of disbelief. If you can convince a learner they are not in the blank white room, even for a moment, you’re doing a good job. Some 360-degree video experiences work better than others, the key is focussing on the learning objectives, not what the software can do.

This blended approach is just one way immersive tech can be used, but in my opinion, it’s not the best way. A far better option is to use immersion to ‘bring the curriculum to life’. Interactive presentations, quizzes and videos can be much more engaging and memorable for learners with the injection of fun activity and creativity.

The benefits of interactive immersive spaces

I’ve given a good and bad example of how immersive spaces can be used, if implemented effectively, what are the benefits?

  • Some scenarios, usually dark and noisy ones, can have their realism enhanced. There are even sytems that simulate smells which are pumped into the room achieving even greater immersion.
  • Facilitates group learning – healthcare is a team sport, whether it’s two paramedics working together or a whole crash team running a cardiac arrest. Students need to learn to work together and communicate effectively.
  • Traditional ‘talk and chalk’ topics, anatomy and physiology, for example, can be brought to life by immersing the students in the subject matter. Get them on their feet, actively engaging with the content, experiencing what it’s like to be a white blood cell floating through the blood stream. They will never forget it!
  • Easy-to-use software means anyone can create any content they need.
  • One sim space can be shared by multiple disciplines. If you’re using the software to create an environment you can have students from nursing, paramedic, physiotherapy, mental health etc. courses using the space with very little set up time required.

The limitations of interactive immersive spaces

  • It’s not real. It’s tempting to think you can substitute high quality in-situ simulation with time in the immersive suite, but it will never be as educationally valuable.
  • Speaking of education value, that’s really hard to measure, though that’s true of all healthcare simulation. Try not to lose sight of your learning objectives and always test if your teaching methods are appropriate to meet them with qualitative and quantitative measures (if possible).
  • The space itself is limiting, compared to VR, for example. You are reliant on students, faculty and equipment all being in the same place and the technology working properly. Again, this is not unique to immersive spaces but if you’re looking to scale up your simulation it might not be the best option.

Are interactive immersive spaces worth it?

Like every simulation tool you can buy, it depends. If you know what you want to achieve and why, and stay true to those goals, it will be worth it. If you’ve got more money than you know what to do with and you’re buying something because the place down the road has it, you will not get a return on your investment.

How can I buy an interactive immersive space?

There is more than one company supplying these systems so do your due diligence. As an independent distributor, Sim & Skills chooses the best partners and solutions and aligns them with our customers’ objectives.

We believe the best value interactive immersive space solution is the Gener8 Immersive Space. They have achieved what all good businesses do by taking an existing product, adding expertise in healthcare education, and have created something greater than the sum of its parts.

The software is powerful, intuitive and simple. It empowers even non-technical users to create custom environments and integrate presentations and videos with ease. This, coupled with the proficiency to convert and build spaces to suit any need, and expertly curated health education content, makes an unbeatable offering.

Can I upgrade an existing system?

Yes! If you have a system that you’re not getting the most out of, you might find upgrading the software and support will help you address your issues with your old system and achieve a return on your investment.

Get started, book a consulation now!

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