Integration of advanced technologies to enhance problem-based learning over distance: Project TOUCH.
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Distance education delivery has increased dramatically in recent years as a result of the rapid advancement of communication technology. The National Computational Science Alliance's Access Grid represents a significant advancement in communication technology with potential for distance medical education. The purpose of this study is to provide an overview of the TOUCH project (Telehealth Outreach for Unified Community Health; http://hsc.unm.edu/touch) with special emphasis on the process of problem-based learning case development for distribution over the Access Grid. The objective of the TOUCH project is to use emerging Internet-based technology to overcome geographic barriers for delivery of tutorial sessions to medical students pursuing rotations at remote sites. The TOUCH project also is aimed at developing a patient simulation engine and an immersive virtual reality environment to achieve a realistic health care scenario enhancing the learning experience. A traumatic head injury case is developed and distributed over the Access Grid as a demonstration of the TOUCH system. Project TOUCH serves as an example of a computer-based learning system for developing and implementing problem-based learning cases within the medical curriculum, but this system should be easily applied to other educational environments and disciplines involving functional and clinical anatomy. Future phases will explore PC versions of the TOUCH cases for increased distribution.Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.