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Embracing new technologies such as Virtual Reality in our teaching resources

By aspiration | 28 Jan 2021 | Category: Blog
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This week was the Emerging Tech Fest and our CEO, Iain Salisbury spoke on a panel about Virtual Reality (VR) in business, alongside three other business leaders from a range of sectors, embracing new technologies as part of their business plans.

As a business that embraces technology, we are always looking at new ways to engage and develop our learners’ experience. VR is an exciting natural progression in our curriculum that we expect to grow over time.
Apprenticeships are all about developing a mix of knowledge, skills and behaviours. There are a range of ways skills and behaviours are developed and assessed in by our teaching team, but one of the key ways we assess a learner’s development on their apprenticeship is through observations of them in their workplace.

Since last March, when the UK implemented restrictions due to Covid-19, it has been challenging for our teaching team to get into work places to complete observations with our learners. Although so much of our teaching is done effectively in online classrooms, to measure an apprentice’s competency to do their role, our team really need to be able to see them in action in the work place. Even prior to the pandemic, there were certain procedures we struggled to observe, particularly within our dental nursing apprenticeship.

With a dental nursing apprenticeship, some treatments we have to observe are not performed in some surgeries very often and some more common treatments, such as root canal treatments, are often emergency or first visit fix appointments. This means it is difficult for our teaching team to book appointments in advance to observe the skills of apprentices. This can result in delays in dental nurses completing their course and becoming fully qualified.

We developed a partnership with the Centre of Excellence in Mobile and Emerging Technologies (CEMET) which is based at the University of South Wales in 2019 and in January 2020 we started work to develop a VR prototype of a root canal procedure. This is a realistic, scenario allowing us to train our dental nurse apprentices in a safe environment, and to develop their skills and behaviours towards their dental nursing role.

We knew this would be a really engaging way for apprentices to learn and there is a growing body of evidence that people find it easier to learn in immersive VR environments. Another benefit that became clearer whilst we were developing the VR was that by using the software we were developing in the VR to mark the observation against what is expected, the assessment was more robust. Usually an observation is conducted by the vocational coach, who records what they see and then marks it, we have to work very hard to ensure different coaches across the UK give consistent assessment decisions as there is inevitably a slight level of subjectivity in this. By using the VR “marking“ we can get a consistent, robust, objective assessment of our apprentices. As well as a pass or fail, the system will give feedback on areas to improve for best practice, meaning the dental nurse apprentice gets the best possible feedback to help them progress with their dental nurse apprenticeship.

Our plans to add VR within our teaching and learning means we are able to offer more engaging learning content at the same time as offering a safe practice environment for our dental nurse apprentices to learn. We are currently working to get funding to develop the prototype into a product we can use in our programmes. A challenge with using new technologies like VR is we have to build it and incur all the costs before regulators are able to approve it for use. Without the support of CEMET and grants to develop these innovations this simply would not be possible.

We don’t believe that VR will replace good quality teaching and coaching from our skilled teaching team, but rather something that works well as part of our blended approach to supplement and improve the learning experience.

At Aspiration Training we are always looking at how we can improve and enhance our resources and our teaching to enrich the learning experience and we believe that VR is something that will continue to develop and get used more widely within the education sector over the next 3-5 years.

If you are interested in a career in dental nursing or looking to take on a dental nurse apprentice, please get in touch.

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