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Remote-facilitated mental simulation to bridge the theory-practice divide

02 February 2022
Volume 14 · Issue 2


Remote simulation in education predates the COVID-19 pandemic, and its more widespread contemporary use can help inform future teaching practices. This article outlines the development of a remote-facilitated mental simulation (RFMS) delivered to second-year paramedic science students at a UK university. This was created using Sprick et al's simulation design model: preparation, briefing, simulation activity, debriefing, reflection and evaluation. Mental simulation is a teaching modality where participants mentally rehearse processes rather than practical skills. Speaking thoughts aloud helps learners to reflect on their thought processes and decision-making. While studies on remote simulation involve a facilitator viewing participants interacting with a simulation, in this study the participants were observers and the facilitator interacted with the simulation equipment. This arrangement may increase access to simulation for learners who do not have access to such facilities. Participants were engaged through group activities and psychological fidelity was maintained by providing real-time streaming of patient observations. The RFMS was evaluated positively by respondents.

The context of teaching and learning has changed significantly during recent times. COVID-19 poses novel problems for educators, such as restrictions to in-person teaching, a reduction in clinical placement opportunities and the shift to online teaching, learning and assessment (Bao, 2020).

Undergraduate paramedic science students have encountered changes to their planned programmes, including the suspension of clinical placements (Choi et al, 2020). This can widen the theory/practice divide—the metaphorical space between academic learning and applying knowledge in clinical environments (Greenway et al, 2019). Simulation is widely discussed as a potential way to bridge these gaps (e.g. Bearman et al, 2013).

This article describes an innovative, remote-facilitated mental simulation (RFMS) for students at a UK-based university (Figure 1 outlines a scenario). It sets out the process and conceptual considerations when designing and implementing simulation interventions (McCoy et al, 2017). This is contextualised in a discussion of underlying education theories. It is intended to assist educators to create remote or in-person simulation activities, and to help students appreciate how simulations are designed to support their learning.

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