Birmingham City University have created their own virtual enivronment called SHAREVILLE.
“The acronym SHAREVILLE required almost as much thought as the concept itself – Shareable Holistic Assets and Resources Existing in a Virtual Interactive Lifelong Learning Environment! This virtual town is an online immersive environment comprising of 360 degree panoramas and 3D resources that students can navigate their way through to engage in very realistic scenarios and solve problems that would be very difficult to represent in class. The uniqueness about Shareville is that the scenarios are role-played, filmed against a ‘green screen’ and then placed in context within the town. No silly avatars here! It might be virtual, but the emphasis is on reality – and it’s great preparation for students entering the world of work ”
Alan Staley, Professor of Educational Technology BCU
I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon with the creators of Shareville and have to say was very impressed with its potential particularly in teaching challenging subjects such as communication skills or management of aggression and violence. The area I was most interested in was ELMWOOD HOUSE. This had been created as a virtual placement for students working in learning disabilities. Students can watch a particular scenario unfold and are given options for their responses. The scenario then plays out according to their selection. This creates a safe environment for students to get things wrong and creates a very realistic representation of the types of service users they may come across in places like Elmwood House. The students can explore case notes and watch relevant videos related to the care management.
The other real beauty of Shareville is the amount of collaboration it encourages between different schools. For example there is a lady living in a high rise flat who has mental health problems. This scenario is applicable for both nursing and construction students, if this character is followed she goes to her sons school where she has an altercation with the head teacher, this scenario was used by the primary education students. Following the altercation the case is picked up by the law students in the towns’ solicitors office.
The team behind the project are developing more ideas, for example they are working with the fire brigade around decision making. In these scenario’s if the decision isn’t made quickly enough then choices are removed which may lead to only incorrect options being left.
I do have a few critiques. The use of green screen does create a rather unreal effect, however they say this is being worked on. Some of the areas are stronger than others, for example there is an area in the hospital supposedly demonstrating communication skills, which is little more than a series of somewhat cringeworthy photographs. However unlike second life the students can’t interact directly and essentially it is a quiz linked to some video embedded in a website. But is has been done very effectively.
Overall I think Shareville is something that could be replicated by City (although BCU do accept commissions). The great advantage to my particular discipline is that it is extremely difficult to simulate mental health care effectively in a classroom. Its not like other branches of nursing where essential physical skills can easily be replicated.So to create a safe interactive environment would be a useful adjunct for our students.