2020-SHLS lecturer wins VR project funding

SHLS Senior Lecturer wins funding to develop revolutionary virtual reality lessons

Fri, 04 Dec 2020 14:25:00 GMT
GCU Senior Lecturer Dr Sharron Blumenthal
GCU Senior Lecturer Dr Sharron Blumenthal

Dr Sharron Blumenthal, Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy and Interprofessional Education at Glasgow Caledonian University, is helping to revolutionise teaching methods in health after securing funding for a virtual reality (VA) lesson project.

Her proposal, entitled ‘A deep dive into the depths of the respiratory system’, takes students on a VR journey through the lungs, and once developed in September 2021, it could be used to teach Higher/A Level pupils, university students and allied health professionals.

Dr Blumenthal, from the Department Physiotherapy and Paramedicine, in the School of Health and Life Sciences, secured the funding after submitting her idea to edify’s Win-A-Lab competition.

Edify is a platform, developed in partnership with the University of Glasgow, giving teachers and academics the chance to co-create and build a limited number of fully-funded virtual educational experiences to teach in a 3D world, remotely, with or without a VR headset.

Announcing Dr Blumenthal’s success today (December 4), edify said: “With 160 entries from around the world, the competition was fierce, and we are delighted to work with Glasgow Caledonian University to help students learn in new ways.”

She will now collaborate with edify’s product and development teams, and has been partnered with Dr Nurul Huda Mohd Nor, a medical lecturer and researcher in the Department of Human Anatomy at Universiti Putra Malaysia, to turn her idea into a reality.

Dr Blumenthal said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been successful in the Win-A-Lab competition and very excited to get started on the project, working in collaboration with the University of Glasgow and the Universiti Putra Malaysia.

“For our School, this is one of the first steps into virtual reality and hopefully this will revolutionise the way that we teach because we don’t have access to cadavers to look at anatomical structures and you cannot manipulate normal physiological principles so this is quite a unique way of teaching for us.”

She said that respiratory anatomy and physiology is complex to teach as a lot of the underlying concepts are difficult for students to visualise.

Dr Blumenthal explained: “My proposal was to develop a lung model that takes students on a virtual journey - by proxy with a tutor wearing the VR headset so they see what the tutor sees - within the respiratory system.

“On route, students will be able to stop off at different points and visualise structural differences as they descend further into the lungs. The journey will begin at the vocal cords following lung divisions finally terminating at the alveolus. It will allow students to see normal anatomical structures and basic physiological functions of the lungs.

“Bolt on additional products could be developed that allow students to visualise the impact of pathology on the lungs. Impact of COVID-19, cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis and emphysema on the lungs could be explored. This would enable students to understand how anatomy, physiology and pathological processes intersect.

“Students could use this learning to develop a deeper understanding of abstract concepts such as airway resistance, compliance, ventilation perfusion coupling and the equal pressure point. This knowledge would help support students underpinning clinical reasoning in relation to patient signs, symptoms and therapeutic interventions.

“It has a huge reach and could be used for physiotherapy pre-registration and post-registration students, nursing, medics, Higher/A level students and a number of different allied health professions such as diagnostic imaging, radiotherapy and oncology.”