Absence of training of carers for the elderly, both formal and informal, accrues a long term economical and healthcare overhead. Demographics and vocational realities of this target group make ordinary teaching methods counterproductive. Scenario based learning has been established as an important part of self-directed education, in formal and informal context. Virtual Environments have established themselves as platforms of increased experiential impact for delivering interactive educational scenarios to learners. As part of the EU funded DISCOVER project, this work describes the innovations in design and implementation of a training scenario of elderly care in the OpenSim Virtual Environment.
From an analysis of the target group for which this learning resource would be created, the following design guidelines emerged:
• Reading familiarity vs immersive narrative: Although it is usually better to narrate through imagery and not through readable text, due to the target audience’s average age non-verbal narration could cause confusion due to lack of previous experience with the medium.
• Smooth Learning Curve for an unfamiliar audience: MUVEs have straightforward keyboard and mouse controls that are very familiar to contemporary users. However, with the target demographic (old Greek adults) having below average digital skills, it was decided for no keyboard shortcuts to be used and for all expected interaction to be described in the case’s textual narrative.
• Cognitive tasks relevant to the target group: While the cognitive abilities of the case’s target group are those of the average member of their demographic, their capacity as carers and the challenges emerging from this role impose a degree of psychological and mental fatigue to them. Thus the presentation of the case was chosen to be straightforward and without extraneous puzzle elements to focus on educational retention and overall judgment since the subject of the case would also be in regard to the same fatigue inducing subject, as a skills.
• Conformance to user’s learning style: It was decided that care should be taken to keep learning style on the instructive side instead of the impactful, due to the target group’s learning background. Specifically the scenario’s branching was designed so that while it would be possible to make erroneous choices the impact of these choices was described and the user was allowed to continue with follow-through choices so as to discover the correct solution to each task presented.
• Consideration of the group’s physical abilities: Both the subject matter and the target group’s composition dictate against intense physical interaction in the game design. Reflex based, timed, or quick actions, while useful to master for healthcare professionals were not included either in the scenario’s goals or its implementation.
Based on these guidelines and with implementation provisions for extensibility, transferability and Standards conformance, the DISCOVER OS virtual case pilot was created and is currently being tested for efficacy as a learning tool for the carers of the elderly. On the development side of this research possible avenues of automation for authoring and repurposing of such scenarios are explored.