A US dental school is opening the doors of the first-ever 3D virtual dental education facility.
The University of Maryland Dental School has introduced the virtual school which is based on the 3D modelling software, ‘second life’.
Students will be able to ‘experience’ aspects of dentistry, ranging from lessons in dental hygiene practices to infection control and anatomy.
Getting the virtual ‘experience’
They can control a second life figure of themselves –an ‘avatar’ – via a mouse and keyboard or through voice-controlled headsets.
The virtual dental school option will be available to first-year students in the autumn.
Carroll-Ann Trotman, associate dean for Academic Affairs, says: ‘What we are doing is developing a 3D virtual world that we can use to engage in global outreach, teaching and perhaps collaboration. So far, it has been reasonably well received by both students and faculty. This is another tool – one of several instructional tools that faculty can have to work with. Each faculty member will approach this with their own ideas.’
The concept is that the virtual dental school tool can be used to help reinforce learning about dental issues such as preventive care, overcoming fear about dental visits, enhancing collaboration with other dentists anywhere at any time, delivering student and faculty lectures, and addressing various competences related to dental courses.
Julie Gilliam, the school’s instructional technology specialist who is creating the virtual programs, says that use of the second life tool ‘is not just a game’.
She says: ‘What’s most amazing about this is the ability to simulate activities, which may include greeting a new patient or taking a patient’s health history.’
The Maryland virtual dental school includes a simulation laboratory and 75 students can operate within the virtual dental school at any one time.
For a virtual tour of the ‘second life’ dental school, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tvdySF0J1s