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Using Virtual Reality for formative assessment of social care students

Health and social care qualifications in the UK, as in many other European countries, require assessment of practice. This is usually undertaken in partnership between training providers (including Further Education Colleges and apprenticeship providers) and care homes. As part of their training, care workers are required to demonstrate practical skills and interaction with clients and reflection, including:

●      Show interaction with individuals that respects their beliefs, culture, values and


●      Support an individual in a way that promotes a sense of identity and self-esteem.

●      Demonstrate ways to contribute to an environment that promotes well-being.

Observation of practice can be (and often is) intrusive. Furthermore, reflection on practice can be problematic as it relies on the memory of trainees of the practice situation.

There are a number of initiatives using Virtual Reality applications for providing formative feedback and assessment to participants in social care training courses.

While the major focus is formative assessment, the data could also be used for summative assessment, where evidence of practice-based competence is required.

Equally, where this example is for social care trainees, it is equally applicable to any education and training programme aiming to provide feedback and reflection on communication and practice, particularly where there may be restraints on real time observation, for instance in hospitality industries.

In research undertaken through the IDCVET European project Graham Attwell has looked at two different approaches to the use of VR technologies for formative eAssessment.

In the first approach the teacher / trainer works together with the care provider to identify tasks to be undertaken to fulfil competences from the course curriculum. The interaction and practice of the tasks are streamed and recorded in real time using a 360 degree / 3D camera. The teacher / trainer can follow the activities using a 3D headset. Following the end of the session, the teacher / trainer and the student can review the activity using it as the basis for reflection. Although best undertaken using immersive 3D headsets, it is also possible to use 2D technologies, a computer or mobile device, for playing back the activity.

The second approach uses branching video. A branching scenario is a flexible assessment content type that enables authors to present a variety of rich interactive content and choices to learners. At various points in the video, questions prompt learners to make choices that determine the content they subsequently can see.

The video content can be structured as a tree with multiple branches and endings.

The video can be recorded using a 360 degree/3D camera for authoring with 3D authoring software and playback through a 3D headset. Alternatively, it can be shot in 2D for example using a mobile phone and authored using a Branching Video application.

The application can be used for individual formative assessment and reflection or can be used to scaffold group discussion.

Branching video may be particularly useful where access to work practice is limited, as during the Covid 19 pandemic or in work situations where learner presence may be intrusive.  

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