Innovation and
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Non-Empirical Research

Published online November 25, 2020 https://doi.org/10.1186/s42862-020-00007-3

Copyright © Innovation and Education.

Experiential learning with virtual reality: animal handling training

Florence Mei Kuen Tang1,Ray Mau Fung Lee2,Roy Hok Lai Szeto3,Justin Chak Ting Cheung1,Olivia Miu Yung Ngan4

Division of Education, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China; Information Technology Services Centre, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China; Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China; CUHK Centre for Bioethics, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

Correspondence to:Florence Mei Kuen Tang

Received: December 28, 2019; Accepted: October 26, 2020

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Abstract

Training in handling laboratory animals is fundamentally imperative to the responsible use of animals in research. Animal welfare topic is underdeveloped in the tertiary education, where instruction is majorly delivered in the format of lecture and group discussion only. Students with limited exposure to the laboratory were inattentive to animal welfare and uncertain how ethics intertwine with science. This paper describes a multi-disciplinary experience in developing and implementing virtual reality (VR) simulation to enhance contextual learning of using animal models in research with digital technology in biomedical science teaching at higher education. The in-house developed courseware consists of student-centred stimulations designed with game elements implemented at the tutorial session. At the first game level, the setting situates at in the preparation room that requires learners to apply the laboratory safety knowledge to wear personal protective equipment. At the second game level, the environment situates at the restricted experimental room to perform hands-on injections on mice. If the learner fails to pick up appropriate safety equipment at the first level, the learner is prohibited from entering the next level. During the simulation, the learner’s interaction is also displayed to the monitor that supports parallel teaching to the larger class. At the debriefing, 3Rs principles were reinforced as a sample framework for performing humane animal research. We illustrate how the hybrid uses of VR technology with gamification, together with didactic pedagogy, offers promise in enforcing working knowledge into better task performance, specifically research skills training. Our experience and students’ feedback show using immersive VR for educational purposes to encourage the learner applying conceptual knowledge in the simulated laboratory setting. Further application of VR in science for vocational training or higher education is feasible to engage students or stakeholders from various disciplines.

Keywords: Virtual reality, 3Rs principles, Gamification, Simulation, Animal handling, Laboratory safety, Laboratory techniques, Laboratory training, Biomedical science education

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