Development of an Instructional Design Theory of Virtual Patients

May 19, 9:45 AM – 11:15 AM

Manon M Schladen, EdS1, Martha Snyder, PhD2
1MedStar Health Research Institute, 2Nova Southeastern University

Problem: Virtual patients offer an approach to rounding out new clinicians’ learning that may be both effective and efficient, but the theories guiding the design of such instructional interventions are immature.
Purpose: To develop an instructional design theory to guide the development of online, interactive virtual patient cases.
Approach & Methods: Goal-Based Scenarios (GBS), an instructional theory incorporating methods to guide case-based learning, was chosen for refinement to support the design of virtual patients. Matt Lane, a 2-module, multimedia virtual patient, provided an instructional instance for application of post facto naturalistic case formative research methods.
Procedure: The extent to which elements of GBS Instructional Design Theory were actually present in Matt Lane and what features of the instance were not accounted for in the theory were examined. Aspects of Matt Lane that worked and didn’t work with learners were analyzed and used to identify refinements to GBS Theory to extend its usefulness for design of virtual patients.
Conclusions & Recommendations: GBS methods provide effective guidance for virtual patient scenarios. The appeal of virtual patients lies in their ability to present authentic clinical encounters. The complexity inherent in reality is a threat to learning, however. A method such as the Simplifying Conditions Method from Reigeluth’s ElaborationTheory, may be an appropriate refinement to GBS theory for virtual patients.