Bringing learning to life through allied health

bring learning to life

Charles Sturt University (CSU) allied health students are gaining valuable clinic skills and experience via Riverina Shore, a new virtual community.

CSU has a reputation for developing innovative learning tools that help students relate theory to practice. ‘Riverina Shore’, a new virtual community, is doing just that by allowing health students to assess clients in real-world scenarios before they ever hit a clinical setting.

Dr Caroline Robinson, Course Director with CSU’s School of Community Health, said Riverina Shore began as a way to present students with complex cases in a more engaging way.

Caroline Robinson

“We give students complex cases to stimulate their clinical reasoning and extend their learning. When they are all paper-based cases, they are quite flat, so when we had the opportunity to collaborate with CSU’s Media Services team it allowed us to create something far more interesting and really bring those cases to life.”

This approach proved successful, with positive feedback from the Bachelor of Podiatric Medicine students involved in the initial trial.

Looking to take the idea to the next level, Dr Robinson and the project team applied for a research project grant through u!magine – CSU’s learning and teaching innovation thinktank.

“The idea changed from having one or two animated stories to actually putting people into a virtual community. We always used real examples, but now they were real people who lived in a community called Riverina Shore, a rurally based community.

“There are places and spaces in the community, so not all resources pertaining to one person are found in just in one place. You might have somebody at their home but then you would also have them in other locations like the community health centre.”

CSU partnered with Albury Wodonga Health to find four real-life people to take part in developing resources for the pilot project.

“Our colleague at Albury Wodonga Health was key to the project because she was the conduit talking to these people. You need somebody who’s got that trusting relationship with people. Our scenarios cover the lifespan from a 12-year-old child to an older lady.”

“People in the virtual community have different issues which they face in their daily life. Complex issues could be related to medical history but it’s much more than that because a person’s age and where they live, their social circumstances and their support networks also play a part.

“Riverina Shore provides students with the opportunity to grapple with complex issues and, in some respects, the video stories enable delivery of more extensive detail than you might get from a person in a typical clinical setting.”

Building skills through practical learning

Preliminary feedback from students, academics and health practitioners has been positive.

“The feedback we’ve had is that the video clips enable the user to see the bigger picture. It’s a simulated online learning experience that enables the students to visualise the person in their environment, allowing for a more accurate assessment of their needs.”

Dr Robinson said that there are many opportunities for extending Riverina Shore as an online learning resource.

“I think there’s lots of ways we can use it. It could be used as preparation for students’ workplace learning – to discuss issues with students before they see clients.

“It could be used in the classroom if there’s something relevant to the topic being explored. For example, a group of students in the Master of Nursing were asked to problem-solve how an older man living in the community would manage at home alone, while his wife was in hospital. We provided a tiny trigger and then allowed the students to problem-solve.

“Resources in the virtual community could also be used to enable inter-professional collaboration, because you could have practitioners from different disciplines sitting down, working on a case together and exchanging their ideas and disciplinary perspectives, which is really enriching for the students. Physiotherapists working with speech pathologists; occupational therapists working with podiatrists.

“There’s a lot of evidence that you can engage students and develop their empathy using online scenarios, so I think there’s great potential to look at Riverina Shore from that sense as well, especially when students may have never spent much time with an older person or they may never have met a young person with Autism Spectrum Disorder. A virtual community enables time for reflection and learning, and the space for students to develop their skills in clinical reasoning.”

Could a career in health be calling you?

CSU’s School of Community Health brings together health courses with a common interest in developing health professionals who improve the lives of individuals so they can participate fully in their communities.

If you’re looking for a challenging and rewarding career in health, CSU offers a diverse range of allied health courses including: