December 2009
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Virtual World Will Offer Students a Unique Patient Experience

Dec 2, 2009

2nd LifeNew technology that will give chiropractic students the opportunity to conduct an online clinical rotation with a virtual geriatric patient is being introduced at Northwestern Health Sciences University. Second Life is a 3D virtual world that uses avatars, moveable icons representing people, to interact through free voice and text chat. During the winter trimester, the Northwestern clinical education department will administer a Second Life beta test that will allow students to conduct virtual interviews with patients in an online simulated clinical training environment.

“This is a rare opportunity because students will be able to interact with unique patient populations of varying ethnicities and abilities,” said Lynne Hvidsten, DC, associate dean of clinical education. “The students can more routinely interact with patients that have disabilities or conditions such as multiple sclerosis – patients they are apt to see in practice, but have little opportunity to experience in a classroom.”

Glori Hinck, DC, assistant professor and pioneer of this program, spoke about Second Life at a technology conference in Australia last summer. Since then, she has been working to integrate the technology into an active education program. “This is the way that education is moving,” Dr. Hinck said. “This beta test is just an introduction. I hope that it will soon supplement mock interviews that students conduct with each other in the classroom.”

Mary Berg, MA, assistant professor, coordinates the chiropractic rotation experiences for the T8 students. “We had about five to 10 students interested in participating in the rotation on Second Life. We know that Second Life may not be for everybody, but we are encouraged by this initial response.”

Dr. Hvidsten, Dr. Hinck, and Berg currently use Second Life and avatars as a means of interacting with each other from separate locations. “It’s like having a conference call with avatars,” said Dr. Hvidsten. To learn more about Second Life, check out a brief introduction created by Dr. Hinck at

“We are very excited about this new collaboration” said Dr. Hvidsten. “Education is certainly changing and we are seeking to meet the various needs of the students. We hope to usher in a new generation of learners.”

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