Trent University Nursing Program to Introduce Virtual Reality Course Lessons Created by Peterborough Technology Startup AVROD

Trent University’s School of Nursing and eCampusOntario partnered with local tech company AVROD to develop virtual reality (VR) lessons for nursing students that will educate on incivility and how to deal with it in the workplace.

The project started when professors including Kim English at Trent University’s School of Nursing connected with eCampusOntario to consider creating a VR project. They were in contact with Jeremy Brooks, Founder of AVROD (Archaeological Virtual Reality Online Database) and Trent University  alumni. 

Brooks, winner of the annual Cubs’ Lair Entrepreneurship Competition with his company AVROD, started with the help of the Innovation Cluster while an archaeology student at Trent University. The platform now has many global archaeological and cultural heritage sites that can be fully explored through virtual reality. 

Brooks and AVROD’s Lead Developer, Manan Patel, have been working alongside English to bring the nursing simulation to life.

“We are excited to be working with Trent Nursing to deliver state of the art training simulations for nurses which go beyond traditional screen-based online teaching technologies,” says Brooks. “We believe that fully immersive VR online learning will become the new normal for Canadian educational institutions, and we are excited to help bring Canada into this next era of online education through AVROD.”

“Our remote collaboration, mentorship, and quick turnaround times create an encouraging and rewarding creation process that pushes our boundaries and gives us the competitive edge to thrive in today’s growing tech industries,” says Patel.

Training tools via simulations are common in nursing education, however virtual reality has not been used as frequently.

“We thought, what if we created VR scenarios to allow students to walk through situations in a safe way, meaning they have the opportunity to leave when they need to, and provide debriefing afterwards,” says English. “Our initial goal is for students to one, experience it safely and two, learn how to deal with it.”

According to Nursing Centre, 30% to 50% of all new nurses will leave their profession sometime during their first 3 years of practice because of workplace issues including incivility. With years of experience in the profession, Trent Nursing professor Kim English says from the perspective of students, they often have felt the brunt of incivility either from an instructor or nurse assigned to them.

Incivility in the workplace can range from passive-aggressive behavior to verbal abuse and bullying.

The VR lessons will ease students into experiencing incivility in the workplace. One example doesn’t involve incivility at all, and tests students on recognizing the difference between that and constructive criticism in an unsafe situation. Another lesson shows micro-aggression, by instructor to student with bystanders present. This provides an opportunity for students to learn how to communicate properly. 

The team originally planned to have students use the project starting throughout May and June, however Covid-19 has prevented this as students will need to enter the university and share equipment. The project launch remains on hold until it can be safely implemented.

Now that the pandemic is pushing all forms of education, work and entertainment to go virtual, English says they are brainstorming ways to innovate their teachings.

“I think that the pandemic right now is making us consider some of these technologies in our approach to teaching,” says English. “Not everything can be virtual [while teaching nursing], but there are opportunities to look at VR to be a tool whether it be conversations or practicing medication administration with distractions around you and resolving. I absolutely think it is something we need to consider as we move forward.”

As Trent looks into these innovations, Brooks says AVROD is preparing for a higher demand in the creation of virtual environments.

“We are expecting a global demand for our platform as people look to travel, explore, learn, and collaborate remotely and safely using more affordable VR headsets like the Oculus Quest,” says Brooks. We plan to launch AVROD globally in the Fall of 2020 and are working with young talent to develop cutting-edge skills to create new Canadian jobs, starting here in Peterborough.”

For more information on AVROD, please visit: http://www.avrod.com/