Virtual reality training improves students' knowledge structures of medical concepts.
Additional Document Info
Virtual environments can provide training that is difficult to achieve under normal circumstances. Medical students can work on high-risk cases in a realistic, time-critical environment, where students practice skills in a cognitively demanding and emotionally compelling situation. Research from cognitive science has shown that as students acquire domain expertise, their semantic organization of core domain concepts become more similar to those of an expert's. In the current study, we hypothesized that students' knowledge structures would become more expert-like as a result of their diagnosing and treating a patient experiencing a hematoma within a virtual environment. Forty-eight medical students diagnosed and treated a hematoma case within a fully immersed virtual environment. Student's semantic organization of 25 case-related concepts was assessed prior to and after training. Students' knowledge structures became more integrated and similar to an expert knowledge structure of the concepts as a result of the learning experience. The methods used here for eliciting, representing, and evaluating knowledge structures offer a sensitive and objective means for evaluating student learning in virtual environments and medical simulations.