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HHP’s VITAL is Real-World Learning in a Virtual Environment.

Participants attended a conference, networked with their peers and learned about new research without leaving their seats - and it was free. The Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) hosted its second VITAL (Virtual Immersive Translational Applied Learning) Showcase in the virtual world of Second Life (SL) from 8:30 a.m-5:30 p.m., Nov. 7, 8 and 10.

Student avatars presenting in Second Life

Dr. Charles Layne, professor and chair of HHP, explains “This model requires students from multiple courses to work together by interacting in the virtual environment of Second Life to develop presentations on health-related topics that are delivered to viewers all across the world during a three day ‘virtual’ health conference. This innovation has increased our student’s knowledge base, stretched their minds, and strengthened their ability to compete in an increasingly competitive and technologically driven marketplace.”

Each of the 43 presentations was 15 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session with the SL audience. The conference was free and open to the public. The projects were presented on the HHP Island in SL at at UH/0/126/25 and could be accessed by clicking on “Join Now, it’s free!” in the HHP region.  

Graduates and undergraduates from four HHP classes made up the VITAL program: Designing and Evaluating Physical Activity Programs, Motor Learning and Control, Nutrition Research, and Physiology of Human Performance. The semester-long, collaborative project is designed to teach management skills and the structure of community health intervention programs, using the latest technological tools.

Student avatars presenting in Second Life

The trans-disciplinary approach allows students to bring the perspective of their home class to their team. Exercise students can advise program development students who can advise those selecting venues and other logistical issues. All of which, represent real-world experiences in their chosen field.

Andrew Yauw, HHP kinesiology student and a VITAL Team Lead, makes the point that physically stepping into a classroom and opening up to classmates can be a difficult situation, but he liked the structure of the project that created an environment where students could easily collaborate to learn and teach one another.

‘It was really surprising to me how convenient Second Life really is. It gives an easy access to reach people and talk to them,” he said. 

“As technology becomes more and more sophisticated, we anticipate more virtual interactions. The VITAL project provides students a unique learning opportunity to navigate the potential of virtual environments as well as developing the skills necessary for team collaborations,” said Dr. Lisa Alastuey, HHP professor. 

All the VITAL presentations are archived and available to anyone in the world who may want to learn more about the various health and exercise projects HHP students are proposing. Layne said, “We want this project to continue and for students who were team members this year to aspire to be team leaders in the coming years.”

              - Martha Hayes


About Second Life

Lisa Alastuey

Second Life (SL) is an Internet-based virtual world. A free downloadable client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called "Residents", to interact with each other through motional avatars, providing an advanced level of a social network service combined with general aspects of a metaverse. Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade items (virtual property) and services with one another.

Visit the Second Life website.