Background Palliative care education modules, developed collaboratively with the local university, required discussion about people living with progressive illness, their families and health professionals. It would not be possible to standardise real participant scenarios and the risks of lack of focus, loss of confidentiality and criticism high.
Aim To provide a virtual caseload/population with ‘real’ stories/situations moulded to participant needs.
Method The initial module had classroom sessions, supported by ‘Blackboard’ Virtual Learning Environment for participant access to resources. A web-based virtual community – ‘Ivy St’ with ‘houses’ (genograms) of extended families and nursing home. Each person had an avatar and a story, including a snapshot of their context – life, work, faith, hobbies and relationships. During the course a daily newsfeed of social and health activities on the street outlined clinical scenarios and role modelled the actions of health professionals with a continuously unfolding storyline.
Results Participants quickly engaged with the story and often expressed emotion about the happenings as if the characters were real. They seemed encouraged to discuss, pose possible conclusions from information available and suggest actions to be taken, learning from one another and online tutors. In the classroom, the topic being discussed would draw on street characters, with group-work on symptoms or treatments, conversations or services. Feedback from participants rated Ivy St as one of the course highlights, confirmed by a positive independent evaluation of the resource. Suggestions that too many happenings on the street in one day made it difficult to keep up with the story, changed the second iteration of the module.
Conclusion It was possible to replace discussion of real live cases, risking loss of confidentiality and criticism of actual care provision, with a virtual, standardisable, mouldable, web based community. The resource will be further developed for the second module and PGCert.
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