Nursing students can learn in a virtual world at UTA

UT Arlington stepped into Second Life in 2009 with a grant through the University of Texas System, Sarah Jones said. Eventually, it was placed under the College of Nursing. UT Arlington pays about $3,500 a year to maintain its Second Life space.

In Second Life, people are learning in real time, Jones said. They experience every sound and motion at the same time. In fall 2010, a nursing workshop included a speaker from Boise State University and an audience member from Poland.

On April 14, nurses can attend a conference, “Therapeutic and Ethical Implications of Genomics for Nursing Practice,” at a virtual UT Arlington. Participants will take part via avatar in specialized discussions about the genetics of drugs commonly used in the elderly or terminally ill.

Patricia Newcomb, assistant professor and director of UT Arlington’s genomics translational research lab in the College of Nursing, said Second Life provides a good venue for the upcoming conference since the topic is very specialized.

“There is not a huge mass of nurses interested in that in a single geographic area,” Newcomb said. “We are not concentrated. We need ways to connect with each other.”

The virtual conference also works because it is easier on pocketbooks. Since the recession, it has been more difficult to pay for trips, conferences or continuing education opportunities that are a must for practicing nurses.

“It’s a way for us to network,” Newcomb said. “It’s easy and it’s free.”

Newcomb said she also holds a series of journal club meetings in Second Life that allow people to discuss research and publications.

Joy Don Baker, a clinical associate professor at UT Arlington, teaches a graduate course in Second Life.