A project developed by Edinburgh College that uses virtual reality (VR) to teach healthcare students how to care for and empathise with dementia patients has earned a Jisc-sponsored award for innovation.
One of several winners at the 2022 Higher Education (HE) Awards, run annually by The Herald, and announced at a ceremony in Glasgow last night, the project is described as ‘an inspiration’.
To develop the VR Dementia Experience, the college partnered with Cadpeople, a ‘visual communications agency’, to build a VR system that took student carers into an immersive world. It better prepares them for professional situations involving the condition than classroom work alone.
Using real-life interviews with those living with dementia and those caring for them, the team created a realistic and empathic experience. Students learn important facts about dementia, and ‘experience’ life as someone with the condition, building their understanding and empathy.
Implemented as part of the college’s new digital care hub, the project has formed a key element of its health and care curriculum and immersive training programme.
Jason Miles-Campbell, head of Jisc Scotland and Northern Ireland and a member of the judging panel, said:
“I’m absolutely delighted for all the winners of The Herald Awards 2022, whose creativity showcases the strength of Scottish higher education today at one of the most challenging times.
“An exceptional example of how technology can support the development of essential skills that employers value, Edinburgh College’s VR Dementia Experience is an inspiration.
“It meets a clear, enduring need in the healthcare industry, encouraging understanding and empathy in a manner that would be difficult or impossible without technology. At the same time, it’s been delivered in an accessible way that provides a model for the development of similar VR resources to support other subject areas.”
Running for seven years, The Herald HE Awards celebrate outstanding and inspiring initiatives from institutions across Scotland. The award for innovative use of technology has been sponsored by Jisc since 2016.