Training for the Future with VR

By: Martha Vockley

June 7, 2021

Categories: AAMI News, HTM Professionals

Hands-on learning is a hallmark of training for a career in biomedical equipment technology. But hands-on learning has its limits. Now, virtual reality (VR) can deliver hands-on—and minds-on—learning experiences in engaging, cost-effective ways. Moreover, virtual reality can help students, particularly those who struggle with tough concepts, learn more.

“VR is the future of biomedical training,” said James Linton, program coordinator and professor of biomedical engineering at St. Clair College, in a Monday education session at AAMI eXchange REWIRED. “The minute you gamify something, everyone’s fighting to get the top score.”

Linton, who’s also pitching a VR education idea at Tuesday’s AAMI Alligator Tank, explained the spectrum of extended or augmented reality (AR) capabilities:

  • AR Absorb is the equivalent of consuming content in new ways, but not changing it. The Google Translate app, for example, allows you to use your phone camera to translate text instantly, and Google Street View uses photographs to show virtual, 360-degree representations of your surroundings.

  • AR Blend is the combination of actual reality and augmented reality. For example, uploading a picture into an app that turns it into a video or places it in a moving scene creates a new experience from existing content.

  • AR Create is based on entirely virtual content, such as the Pokémon Go app.

AR Absorb is the simplest entry into this world. Linton has created a 360-degree video of a new facility that allowed people to walk around the building and get their bearings virtually. In his classrooms, he has created videos of a hospital morgue and a live surgery, to prepare biomed students before they are called into such situations. “It lowers their anxiety,” he said.

AR Blend gives students the “amazing experience” of being able to look at, walk around, and manipulate medical devices that would otherwise be off-limits.

Jim Durocher, professor of biomedical engineering technology at St. Clair College, has used the Rumii app to help students understand how magnetic fields and flux work in MRI machines. Students can’t take MRI equipment apart, but in a virtual world, “they have the freedom to move and look into the magnetic coil and see the gradient coils and how they affect other objects,” Durocher said.

VR training also is a safer learning environment. Students can make mistakes without risk of hurting themselves or damaging equipment, Durocher said. And if they do make a mistake, they get as many do-overs as they need.

“Being physically engaged engages other parts of the brain and helps them remember,” Linton said. Student performance increased by more than 10% in the second half of a course with VR content, compared to the first half with no VR content. Notably, the gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students narrowed considerably, thus leveling the playing field.

“We’re seeing virtual reality and extended in schools and universities worldwide,” said Corinne Hoisington, professor of information systems technology at Central Virginia Community College and VR-certified trainer for ByteSpeed. “Now students can try so many different experiences have so many different experiences than you can possibly purchase or house within your schools.”

Benefits of VR training include:

  • Excitement to learn (without having to travel)
  •  Engagement in learning
  •  Increased retention of knowledge
  •  Improved performance
  •  Ability to refresh or retest anytime
  •  Teacher engagement
  •  Cost savings
  •  Ability to "do anything"