Title: Virtual worlds: an environment for cultural sensitivity education in the health sciences

Authors: Alex Ivan Games, Eric B. Bauman

Addresses: Telecommunication, Information studies and Media, 428 Communication Arts and Science Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA. ' Games+Learning+Society, University of Wisconsin – Madison School of Education, P.O. Box 5421, Madison, WI 53705, USA

Abstract: Introduction: health professionals must address culture and diversity in practice. Clinical assessment and treatment have been linked to race and ethnicity (Schitai, 2004, Smedley et al., 2003). Research has addressed culture and diversity in traditional learning environments (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Grant and Sleeter, 2006), yet, little exists related to virtual communities. This is troubling because virtual environments are increasingly being used as platforms for indoctrination, communication, and assessment for clinical education. Theoretical framework: virtual communities encourage participants to |try on| different identities (Gee, 2003), and reflect on the consequences of their decisions while |wearing| them. This paper introduces a new framework: the ecology of culturally competent educational design, providing a launching point for development and evaluation of cultural competence in virtual worlds. Conclusion: virtual worlds provide a useful and safe medium for integration of cultural competence training in clinical education, which is paramount because it influences patient diagnosis and outcome.

Keywords: culture; diversity; simulation; virtual worlds; games; learning; clinical education; cultural sensitivity education; health sciences; health professionals; healthcare; race; ethnicity; virtual communities; online communities; web based communities; cultural competence training.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2011.039510

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2011 Vol.7 No.2, pp.189 - 205

Available online: 06 Apr 2011 *

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