Photo of student using virtual reality equipment

Exploring virtual reality as a teaching tool in occupational therapy

We are always looking for opportunities to bring new technology into the classroom and make learning more engaging for our students. Virtual reality, or VR, is an emerging technology that has the potential to be used in classrooms as a teaching tool to help students ‘feel’ the content.

Last month, our second-year MScOT students at both the Mississauga and St. George campuses participated in a research study to understand if and how virtual reality can be used to supplement or improve the traditional curriculum.

Students trialed four different virtual reality modules using four different technology options:

  1. A 360° video designed to teach compassion as students see a video from the point of view of a COVID-19 patient receiving bedside care.
  2. An animated interactive scenario where students practice assessing a patient in a hospital bed.
  3. An anatomy learning module about the spatial relationship between upper limb bones, muscles and nerves.
  4. A 360° video that teaches students about research planning during a team meeting.

Photo of student using virtual reality technologyAfter completing each module, students were asked to share their reflections and feedback on where in the OS&OT curriculum VR would be best used to improve student learning outcomes. This study was led by faculty members Andrea Duncan, Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia, and Emily S. Ho from OS&OT and Heather Thompson from Nursing. Faculty shared that students were enthusiastic to try out VR headsets and provide feedback to help future OS&OT learners.
So, will future students be purchasing VR headsets in lieu of textbooks? TBD. While VR is a promising technology and may be a great tool to bring lessons to life in the classroom, Andrea said they are still evaluating if it leads to better understanding of course material.

Photo of faculty members Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia, Emily Ho, Andrea Duncan and Pat Mckee holding virtual reality devices