As the metaverse continues to expand, technologies such as simulations and (VR) are proving their value in higher education, enabling effective soft skill development and helping lift graduate employability outcomes.
Technologies that deliver authentic, accessible experiences
“OES provides a range of online simulation experiences using various leading technologies,” explains OES Simulations Services Lead, Tegan Hughes. “Working with university and industry partners, we create experiences that solve higher education and industry training challenges including the teaching and assessment of the soft skills today’s employers expect.”
Tegan says the overall aim is to provide authentic, immersive learning experiences while removing as many tech barriers as possible for students.
“Whether that means creating simulations where avatars are controlled by live human actors for a deeply realistic immersive experience, or anytime-anywhere gamified VR learning experiences that give students immediate feedback, students can access OES simulations with nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection. No extra software or hardware is needed,” she says.
Here’s how OES is using simulations and VR across a wide range of disciplines, learning objectives and courses:
Creating a level playing field for business and design students
Students studying for degrees in areas such as business and design are typically required to present or pitch their work or ideas to an industry panel – either individually or as part of a group.
“Providing a consistent experience and fair, unbiased assessment for such tasks can be enormously challenging given the many variables,” Tegan says. “By contrast, a VR pitch ensures every student or student group experiences the same degree of panel engagement and questioning.”
“VR enables universities to fairly and accurately assess student performance and communication skills with a deliberately designed industry panel. This might include warm, enthusiastic panellists but also less engaged personalities and those who ask thorny or challenging questions.”
Preparing education students for their first professional conversations and more
Bachelor of Teaching students preparing for their first practicum round often feel nervous about introducing themselves to their supervising teacher.
“University academics report that it’s hard to effectively prepare students using traditional online or in-classroom methods,” says Tegan. “Using a VR environment, OES has created a ‘choose your own adventure’ style experience where student teachers can practice and gain confidence for these first professional conversations.”
An experienced teacher avatar leads the conversation, with students offered multiple response options. Numerous outcome paths are built into the scenario – if students make a misstep along the way, there are several opportunities to recover.
“A VR experience like this mimics real life in a way that other forms of online learning, or even traditional role play, can’t,” Tegan explains. “Plus, it’s highly flexible and available to students anytime, anywhere.”
Critically for academics, OES’s VR experiences also provide student performance data to enable quick, accurate marking of the task and an unbiased assessment of students’ soft skills.
Other scenarios where VR offers authentic practice and skill development for pre-service teachers include parent-teacher interviews and working with students who have autism.
Meanwhile, OES’s Simulations deliver authentic classroom management experiences and give students the skills and confidence to capably manage a variety of student behaviours and learning styles.
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Taking simulated learning to the next level in health
Simulated learning using mannequins or silicone body parts has long been used to provide clinical procedure practice, but authentically teaching health students the soft skills they will need in ward, consulting or bedside situations has been more difficult.
“Simulations and VR address the challenge because they enable the creation of realistic scenarios for every student to experience,” Tegan says.
“Effectively managing difficult conversations with colleagues in the medical or hospital hierarchy is one example. VR scenarios that mimic challenging ethical conversations, to give nursing students the chance to practice how they would handle them in the workplace. These are experiences that every trainee nurse should have, but which won’t necessarily happen on placement.”
Mental health is another area where simulations or VR are ideal to offer trainee doctors, nurses, psychologists and counsellors experiences – dealing with highly emotive or stressed patients for example – that are difficult to authentically create using traditional online or face-to-face activities.
Gamification enjoyed by students, academics value time savings
“For students, our Simulation and VR experiences feel a bit like playing a video game, where you decide the action or response you want to take,” Tegan explains.
The benefit for universities is that academics receive an output of each student’s decisions and performance, making assessment faster and more consistent.
“We can even build VR assessments that can be auto marked, saving academics significant time.”
Helping industry to recruit and train staff
Industry clients leverage OES’s Simulations and VR solutions to solve staff recruitment and training challenges.
“A quick VR screening can help employers make informed decisions about who to shortlist for a face-to-face interview. For employers receiving hundreds of applications for roles, this can deliver enormous efficiency,” Tegan says.
On the staff training side, OES has delivered tailored, simulated learning for clients in the insurance and community services sectors among others.
“Simulated scenarios enable managers to learn and practice skills such as performance coaching, staff mentoring and running effective appraisals.”