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8. Conclusions

8.1 The aim of the 18-month Project was to assess the potential use and impact of the VERT technology in pre-registration radiotherapy education in England. The Report outlines the implementation and subsequent evaluation of VERT over the initial 18 month period of its introduction into 10 educational institutions and the associated radiotherapy and oncology departments providing clinical training and experience.

8.2 Student response to VERT was very positive. Evaluation throughout the Project consistently demonstrated that students’ enjoyment of learning as well as their knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence were enhanced by VERT. However, although successful, VERT can not be the sole means for supporting knowledge and skill development, particularly in the clinical setting.

8.3 Students appeared to gain most benefit from individual interaction with VERT, learning from mistakes made in a ‘safe’ environment and with immediate feedback on their performance via the software.

8.4 Some students, however, did report adverse effects such as headaches, eye strain and disorientation. These were generally relatively minor and minimised by avoiding excessive manipulation of the scene during user interaction and limiting the length of exposure to 3D stereoscopy.

8.5 VERT was useful for development of the strategies, skills and confidence required in clinical practice, particularly for first-year students. Clinical staff confirmed that pre-placement experience in VERT led to increased confidence and improvement in psychomotor skills; and that the skills developed were transferable to the clinical environment.

8.6 Seminar VERT systems were under-utilised in most centres during the Project. Lack of staff; location of the VERT facility; and difficulty gaining access to the facility contributed to under-use. Difficulty in accessing the necessary treatment planning data resulted in some limitation in the use of Immersive VERT to demonstrate techniques and enhance plan evaluation in educational institutions without an in-house treatment planning system and associated CT data.

8.7 It is too early to draw any significant conclusions regarding the impact of VERT on attrition in radiotherapy programmes.  A reduction of 5.4% in student attrition was noted for the 2008/9 year although it is impossible to attribute this to the introduction of VERT.  Educational institutions are using VERT to enhance their recruitment process but, again, it is too early to draw firm conclusions regarding its impact. Feedback following use of VERT to support ‘at-risk’ students indicated that VERT had a positive impact on students continuing on the course and thus suggests that VERT may have a role to play in improving retention.  Enhanced enjoyment, motivation, knowledge and understanding may also have a positive impact and contribute to improved retention.

8.8 Throughout the Report recommendations have been made to support the continued development of VERT as a valuable tool in radiotherapy education and training.

8.9 Proposed Further Action and Research
Based on evaluation over the 18 months of the Project the following action is proposed:

  • continuation of a National User Group managed by Vertual Ltd.;
  • review of the progress of Regional and Local User Groups;
  • further assessment of how, and how often, VERT is being used;
  • a focus on increasing the utilisation of Seminar VERT facilities;
  • ongoing appraisal of the impact of VERT on recruitment and retention;
  • identification of funding for installation of treatment planning systems within educational institutions.
  • further research that eliminates the influence of intuitive view manipulation by experienced personnel in order to clarify the influence of user tracking on student performance in VERT scenarios; and
  • further controlled studies to quantify the impact of VERT on knowledge enhancement.

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