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Teachers' conceptions and their approaches to teaching in virtual reality and simulation-based learning environments

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This research article focuses on virtual reality (VR) and simulation-based training, with a special focus on the pedagogical use of the Virtual Centre of Wellness Campus known as ENVI (Rovaniemi, Finland). In order to clearly understand how teachers perceive teaching and learning in such environments, this research examines the concepts of teaching and learning, pedagogical models and methods as well as the educational tools used by ENVI teachers (n = 8). Data were collected through thematic interviews and analysed using the content analysis method. This interview study indicates that teachers saw ENVI's use in education as indisputably beneficial, because it has brought authenticity to teaching and provided students with experiential learning opportunities. ENVI has also made possible the integration of theoretical and practical knowledge. Teachers had widely accepted their role as facilitators of student learning but held widely varied conceptions of learning. Teachers' underlying conceptions become evident in their student-centred approach to teaching and in their utilisation of problem-based learning. However, their use of pedagogical models was not consistent or well defined which has been the case in previous research. Although teachers still need education and support to use a variety of pedagogical models, the results of this study suggest that teachers are moving in the direction of adopting student-centred approaches. So far, this research has offered a starting point for developing a pedagogical model for VR and simulation-based learning environments. As well, it offers useful insights regarding teaching, especially for healthcare teachers, teacher educators, instructor trainers, designers and researchers.
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Keywords: VR and simulation-based learning environments; conceptions; healthcare education; pedagogical models and methods; teachers; thematic interview

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of Education, Centre for Media Pedagogy (CMP), University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland

Publication date: 2011-02-01

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