How an emergency room simulation helps medical and engineering students see new points of view

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Some medical students in Canada collaborate in a virtual classroom with design engineering students in Italy. Their common goals are to improve their preparation and knowledge regarding their respective real-world professional challenges by working together online in a scenario.

Students log into an online simulation of a virtual emergency room. Medical students are assigned avatars of doctors and nurses, and engineering students are assigned avatars of computer scientists or designers. The scene unfolds in response to the students’ collaborative actions.

This is a true learning experience supported by educators from McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences. Doctors and nurses take a Continuing Professional Development course with Professor of Medicine Teresa Chan, who is also Associate Dean for Continuing Professional Development.

Learning through scenarios and simulations in areas ranging from healthcare to education is nothing new. But this example provides a glimpse into the broader future of teaching and learning in post-secondary education in virtual environments.

The open “co-learning” class

I am a researcher in design, I learn innovator and artist whose research focuses on educational technology to seek new ways of learning and teaching.

I see students learning together through scenario-based learning enhanced by artificial intelligence as a growing trend, and I’m interested in how universities can integrate the ideas of designers committed to building civic engagement. stronger and more participatory. Whether collaborative learning is among peers or in larger groups, the benefits for participants include improved critical thinking.

For our society to see innovation in virtual learning, we need good design principles and tools for knowledge, sharing and growth. My research, applied practice, and teaching at Harvard University’s Masters in Design Engineering program has focused on the development of collaborative learning or “co-learning” as a learning methodology and style. This learning is based on design principles such as equality, accessibility, diversity, inclusion, and working together to solve real problems.

Video on how design can sustainably meet the needs of cities from the Open Design School.

Co-learning can unfold positively when people collaborate entirely online or in hybrid situations (online and in-person).

Co-learning is about setting up ideal conditions for learning in a peer-to-peer context, whether in community or civic contexts focused on civic change or group innovation or in formal education.

In an online classroom, co-learning involves interactive course content as a way to create scenarios where students can act and play, improvise, and talk about relevant topics in groups.

The open co-learning classroom offers students the opportunity to observe and teachers to listen and co-learn at their own pace. Video learning activities and interactive virtual spaces promote student teamwork. Virtual learning offers these teams the ability to collaborate across regions. Collaboration is a state of mind and a method.

Virtual Teaching Assistants

Artificial intelligence (AI) also has a role to play in future co-learning. For example, a course instructor or video presenter is recording a lecture on a topic they want to share. This allows the same video to be viewed by one student or thousands of students.

Thanks to a common platform, students from different parts of the world could request help from a virtual assistant: a chatbot.



Read more: Ethically designed AI-powered chatbots can support high-quality university teaching


The facilitator of in-person classes could also use the virtual teaching assistant to help students learn from each other: students could use an app on their mobile devices, while the facilitator can guide, coach and interact with the groups.

No additional facilitator is needed to teach multiple sections of the same course. The facilitator is both a guide and a mediator.

New levels of collaboration and new ways of learning

Using such hybrid methods, people around the world could share facts, dialogues, materials and projects based on a common interest in learning by doing. Stories and ideas from science and art could be shared and new ideas co-created.

Virtual collaboration could also help break down academic silos by bringing people from different fields together to achieve applied interdisciplinary approaches.

These design-based research scenarios can redefine how we can make learning more collaborative and also increase student access to talented educators around the world.

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