Using Avatars to Improve Communication Skills and Build Mentoring Relationships in an Imaging Science Program
AffiliationUniversity of Southern Indiana
TitleUsing Avatars to Improve Communication Skills and Build Mentoring Relationships in an Imaging Science Program
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Students are often timid when they start clinical education and begin working with actual patients. One area that tends to suffer in the early stages of clinical education is the vital communication piece that must happen with a patient in order to put together a comprehensive clinical history for the interpreting physician. In an effort to increase student confidence in communicating with patients to obtain a clinical history prior to an imaging study, a project was developed utilizing a virtual reality (VR) environment in a web based platform for a group of imaging science procedures courses. Multiple authors (Annetta & Holmes, 2006; Falloon, 2009; Baker, Wentz, & Woods, 2009) have suggested the use of avatars as a method of increasing student engagement and learning. Novice students enrolled in the Introduction to Radiographic Procedures course collaborated with advanced students enrolled in their fourth semester of the Radiographic Procedures course sequence to create short videos showing a typical dialogue that would take place at the beginning of an imaging study in the clinical environment. Students were allowed to use their creativity in creating avatars, environments, and scripts for this project. By collaborating with advanced students, the novice students were able to establish a connection with a mentor from the advanced cohort of students while also learning new communication strategies for questioning a patient and increasing confidence. Results of student perceptions of benefits and drawbacks to the project will be discussed as well as opportunities for project improvement in the future. This pedagogical approach outside of the classroom allowed for a unique and entertaining method of learning new skills and establishing mentor and mentee relationships.