A virtual reality user stands in front of a computer monitor

Can virtual reality play a role in veterinary education?

At CSU, the VetVR team is part of many virtual and augmented reality-based projects exploring future applications of the technology. The Office of the Vice President, Research has led the expansion of these efforts through a targeted initiative that began in 2017, which has spawned further investments in teaching and research.

Over the past two years, Boscan and the VetVR team have developed a virtual module to train veterinary students in the basics of anesthesiology: how to sedate patients, use an anesthesia machine, administer medication, perform ultrasound urgency and all that goes into reality. life medicine. Their goal is to create a virtual environment that is almost identical to classroom and clinic training. One day, such a virtual tool could complement classroom equipment, making training accessible to many more students and remotely.

Their efforts are occurring concurrently with an overall overhaul of CSU’s DVM program, as well as expanded facilities. Major updates expected over the next few years include more hands-on surgical experience, greater focus on problem solving and decision making, and stronger training in increasingly complex medical systems. The VetVR team believes that virtual reality has the potential to be part of the modernized suite of educational tools, not only for veterinary medicine, but also for disciplines that require cognitive and manual skills to solve complex problems.

Virtual veterinary anesthesia

At the end of the semester last spring, the VetVR team tested its latest virtual reality tool by recruiting students to voluntarily take an anesthesiology exam in the virtual setting. These same students also took the exam the traditional way in the classroom, assessed in person by their human instructors. A research team collected data on students’ experiences and compared their performance on both types of exams.

Lynn Keets is a third-year DVM student who collected data from students who received anesthesiology training in the virtual setting. She presented these findings at the International Symposium on Veterinary Emergencies and Critical Care in San Antonio in September, and most recently at the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia Annual Summit in Portland, Oregon.

Keets and the team found that virtual reality increased cognitive load for the exam. Virtual reality was new to 70% of students surveyed, so the learning curve was a performance factor, and the virtual setting might have added some complexity to the tested hardware. However, Boscan said, virtual reality eliminates the subjectivity of a professor administering the exam in real life. “What we know for sure is that teachers are nice and computers are not nice,” Boscan said.

Keets said she thinks next generations of learners may be more open to virtual technologies like the ones she and the team have explored. “I think it offers a new approach, a different system of learning pedagogy… Not everyone is suited to sit in a classroom, so in that way it adds value” , she said.

The research is helping to determine if virtual reality could be a useful tool for educating veterinarians. In its next phase of work, the VetVR team will continue to expose student volunteers to the virtual anesthesia module. This year, they plan to put their virtual tool through an even more rigorous test. “We will train them in virtual reality and examine them with a real machine,” Boscan said.

Moving into the play area

While working on veterinary and anesthesia projects, the team dreams bigger – and it goes back to the dying German Shepherd scenario. Along with their research, the team also enlisted coders and developers to create a virtual reality game that allows players to “treat” a patient in a veterinary clinic, providing opportunities for complex decision-making and medical outcomes for patients.

The VetVR game will soon be available through SteamVR as part of a game studio the team has named Liekos. The researchers hope that public attention will help them refine the software and improve it for further use in educational settings. Their plan is to launch other products through Liekos Studio, such as a VR app for mental health.

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