Second Life® Project Development as a Venue for Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Second Life® Project Development as a Venue for Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Susan Toth-Cohen (Jefferson College of Health Professions, USA) and Pamela R. Mitchell (Kent State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-878-9.ch015
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The increasing complexity of health service delivery, along with rapid growth of the older population, increased survival of premature births and serious accidents, and retirement of baby boomer healthcare workers have created a critical need for health care professionals who can function as team members and leaders who collaborate to deliver effective, individualized care. Yet, while collaboration between disciplines is considered an ideal, many barriers impede its implementation, including geographic isolation and limited information exchange opportunities (Kilgo & Bruder, 1997). As a result, students in health disciplines frequently are educated without exposure to the professionals with whom they will work when entering the workforce. The need for interprofessional education was highlighted by concerns noted by the Committee on the Health Professional Education Summit for the Board of Health Care Services of the Institute of Medicine in 2003, that reported a major disconnect between the isolated professional education approach in health care and increasing expectations for interdisciplinary team-based care. The Center for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education indicates that benefits of such an educational approach can cultivate closer collaboration between professions, organizations and service users, which can improve quality of care (Center for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education, 2002). The ability of health-related programs to implement interprofessional project-based learning is often hampered by distance, time and programmatic constraints. Virtual worlds such as Second Life can help address these constraints. Virtual worlds like Second Life® (SL) provide unique venues for fostering collaboration by closing the gaps created by distance and lack of information exchange. In this chapter, the authors describe the process of collaboration by occupational therapy (OT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) students and faculty in developing an educational event in the virtual environment of SL. The event planning and implementation provide an example of project-based learning (Donnelly & Fitzmaurice, 2005) and interdisciplinary community-building that provides insights and “lessons learned” with application to future project development in virtual worlds. The authors discuss the applications of project-based learning for interdisciplinary team building, describe student and faculty roles and specific steps in planning, management, and production of an event for current and prospective OT and SLP students, and analyze challenges and supports in project implementation
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Both key project faculty recognized the potential of SL as an immersive project-based learning environment, particularly for students in disciplines characterized by the application of science and technology to everyday challenges of people facing disease, injury, or challenging life situations. Each had established a virtual center to serve as a test-ground for projects, classes, and meeting space and determine feasibility and best applications for their respective institutions. Additionally, both faculty had begun collaborative projects with others in SL who were geographically distant and in working in disciplines very different from (though complementary to) their own. The SLP faculty had started a group on interdisciplinary practices in an effort to promote further efforts to exchange information and develop collaborative projects, unbounded by time and location constraints that can hamper real world collaborative efforts. It was at this point that the two principal faculty met during an event held at the OT faculty’s center; each was thus “primed” for collaboration as each had students already in-world and previous experience with group work in SL.

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