Collaborative Design of a Virtual Community: Engaging Students through Online Simulation

Caroline Robinson, Ryun Fell, Tracey Parnell,
Rachel Rossiter, Jane McCormack and Kerri Hicks Part of CW16

‘Riverina Shore’ is a virtual community which has been developed within the School of Community Health at Charles Sturt University as an online learning resource for students. The virtual community is presented as an attractive webpage in which client scenarios are embedded in a range of community places and spaces.

This project used activity theory to inform the process of interdisciplinary collaboration between diverse groups of practitioners to create this virtual community. A reimagining of the academic hierarchy facilitated effective collaboration between media technologists, educational designers, practitioners and academics to enable the development of authentic resources. The value of Riverina Shore as a virtual community is the participation of real people in the development of the audio-visual resources. Real people, telling their unscripted story in authentic contexts, ensures that the ‘messiness and complexity’ of their lived experience is not diluted. Simulation scenarios must be truly contextual, reflecting effectively the real life tensions and issues which people cope with on a daily basis.

The evaluation feedback from students, practitioners and academics demonstrates clearly the value of these authentic narratives in facilitating critical thinking, clinical reasoning and visualising opportunities for inter-professional practice. The learning benefits of these scenarios in which students can see clearly the connections between person – family – environment – occupation, may be more extensive than is possible through the use of digital stories. This virtual community could be used effectively to help prepare students for workplace learning experiences, especially in terms of empathy development and holistic person-focused care.