DEHub Research Projects/University of New England

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Contextualising virtual interaction opportunities in the health sciences: pharmacist and social work client counselling
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Introducing the UNE project


Social_work Pharmacy Interaction Contextualization Experience

Overview of the project: Developing counselling skills using videos and roleplay scenarios in a virtual world.

Counselling skills are essential in many health professions. The focus of this research project is counselling skills in pharmacy and social work. Patient counselling is the term employed by pharmacists to describe verbal interactions with clients. In social work, counselling describes the therapeutic approach which aims to increase clients’ sense of well-being and, employs a range of techniques based on experiential relationship building. Students in both professions are required to develop core interpersonal skills during their training to successfully engage with clients during student practicum and into their professional careers.

Traditionally, role-plays are often used in teaching the application of counselling theory. In role-plays the student is cast as the professional and the role of the client is often played by an academic, another student or sometimes an actor, with the academic observing the interactions to gauge student performance. This can become a very time intensive and costly activity, particularly with large class sizes. Such activities rely on students and academics being together in one physical location, and thus present additional challenges for programs taught in an external mode.


What we aim to achieve

The major aims of this project are to investigate the effectiveness of the 3D virtual world in:

  • demonstrating counselling approaches to students in pharmacy and social work programs
  • providing opportunities for students to practice counselling approaches in a non-threatening “safe” environment.
  • providing opportunities for students to reflect upon their own counselling performance by reviewing the recordings made of their online interactions.
  • improving counselling skills of students in pharmacy and social work programs.

The project will also develop pedagogy for health sciences academics for the use of virtual approaches in teaching.

The project will achieve the following outcomes:

  • A suite of 3D virtual scenarios demonstrating a variety of counselling approaches and skills for pharmacy and social work students.
  • Evidence concerning the effectiveness of the 3D virtual world in teaching counselling skills.
  • Guidelines for the use of the 3D virtual world in teaching counselling skills.
  • A community of practice of academics using 3D virtual teaching in health and allied fields will be established


News and announcements

14 July 2011: Pharmacy and hospital ward sets near completion.

30 May 2011: Project Manager appointed: Lindy McKeown Orwin.


Discussion list feed

Contact: Professor Ieva Stupans, University of New England.