The use of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) has become standard practice across many educational institutions worldwide, affording greater access to students in a blended learning environment. Some higher education facilities are also using new and emerging technologies like virtual or adjusted reality (VR, AR) to provide students with authentic tasks that are designed to hone their skills in real-world activities. Since 2016 the Education Simlab™ at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia have been facilitating Human-mediated simulations, first through TeachLive and now through AR software Mursion™. Integrated into the Education Degrees at Murdoch, Simlab™ uses a three-tiered framework of ‘experience’, ‘mentor feedback’, and ‘self-reflective practice’ to reinforce student learning, fast-track their skills in preparation for school placements, and encourage self-reflection on their best teaching practice. Students are supported during these simulations by a live actor or ‘Interactor’ who voices and puppeteer’s digital avatars in a classroom setting, and by a ‘Clinical Practitioner’ with prior teaching experience who provides them with feedback and support. This paper discusses the ongoing development of the Simlab™ program at Murdoch University, highlighting some of the benefits and challenges of using AR technology in conjunction with simulation, and how the use of Simlab™ is now being utilised for other areas of study both within Murdoch and beyond. It also discusses the importance of the ‘live’ and Human-mediated aspect of the Mursion™ software, and the integral role that the Interactors and Clinical Practitioners play in supporting student learning.
Dr Ellin Sears is an early career researcher and a practicing artist within the fields of acting, directing, and choreography/movement based in Perth, Western Australia. She is also one of four trained Interactors for the Murdoch Simlab program. Her doctoral studies investigated the functions of musical theatre dance through the lens of audience reception. Her areas of interest in research include acting for digital roleplay and simulation, music theatre dance, theatre in education, and Shakespeare studies. She has performed, taught, and presented at conferences in Perth, as well as interstate.
Ann-Marie Gresele worked in Primary and Early Childhood classrooms prior to taking a position as school experience Practicum Supervisor at Murdoch University in 2000. She has also tutored, lectured and co-ordinated across a number of School of Education units. Ann-Marie has been nominated a number of times for the Murdoch Universities Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Teaching Award for General Teaching Excellence. In 2019 Ann-Marie was seconded to the virtual SimLab avatar classroom as the moderator and mentor taking on the role of Lead Clinical Practitioner. She strongly believes in immersing Pre-Service Students in what they are being taught, though a positive personal example.