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The Wednesday AccrualNet Blog Post (12-12-12): Are You Game?

Last Updated: Dec 19, 2012

Educators play a critical role in clinical trials - teaching students, medical and nursing staff about the general principles of research and good clinical practice. 

Annette Galassi's Image

Most of us who are educators have a few games in our ‘bag of tricks’ that we use to teach or reinforce concepts.  Perhaps a version of Jeopardy, Family Feud, or Trivial Pursuit that you play with students or staff in order to reinforce learning about the basics of cancer or principles of cancer treatment.  Students and staff usually enjoy these activities because they are more interactive and way more fun than didactic presentations.  Educational games have the potential to improve health professionals’ performance through improving their knowledge, skills and attitudes. And their use is supported by Knowles’ theory of adult learning.  But games have drawbacks. You need enough staff to create teams and enough time to play to the game’s end – two things that are often lacking.     

A potential solution is the use of interactive, Web-based learning applications or computer games as they are commonly referred to.  This week we’ve added one such game to AccrualNet.  It’s the Virtual Clinical Trials Simulator created by Rice University Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning.  This game allows players to develop a better understanding of clinical trials and related careers, and would be useful for those new to the field.  Players set up a phase 2 clinical trial to test a new therapy for spinal cord injury patients, and in doing so learn about the phases of clinical trials, patient eligibility, and the informed consent process.  I played this morning.  It was fun!  Why don’t you play and let us know what you think.

lynn lauterbach's Image

This is a unique way to get the concepts of virtual clinical trials understood by lay people and to help them see the value of trials.  I think students could benefit from this exposure also as it provides real world applications to things they study in classes.  The game type features are interesting and it is an easy, fun way to learn.  Nice resource.

KristiB's Image

I am one of the developers working on this project. We believe computer games are a valuable resource for learning new concepts in an active way. We hope with the widespread use of Virtual Clinical Trials a clearer understanding of the rigor used in trials and their importance to medical breakthroughs could lead to a positive shift in attitudes toward future participation in a clinical trial. 

Stay tuned for the second simulation in which players set up a phase 3 clinical trial testing a new antidepressant for treating teenagers with major depressive disorder. This simulation will teach aspects of clinical trials that are not covered in the first simulation, including placebos and the purpose of study arms. The third simulation in development will focus on the preclinical phase and phase 1 safety testing of a medical advancement. We will also be implementing a save game feature in the next couple of months.

Let us know what you think!

Annette Galassi's Image

Great planned simulations.  I look forward to checking them out!

Linda Parreco's Image

Hi Kristi--the game is really interesting! Can you tell us about how the game is being used now? If someone is interested in using this in their clinic for patients or in an orientation program for new hires--is there anything special they should know to get started? Any plans for evaluation? 


KristiB's Image

The first Virtual Clinical Trial simulation was just completed a few weeks ago, so we have just begun to disseminate the website. Right now we think the game is being used in high school science classes. High school science classes are a good fit because clinical trials are naturally embedded with scientific methods and processes, which are normally reinforced in science classrooms. The website is free, so we hope that Virtual Clinical Trials will also be used with the general public and in the clinic. Right now we are trying to disseminate to that audience. If someone in the clinic wants to use the simulations with their patients or new hires, all they need is a computer with Adobe Flashplayer (which comes standard with internet browsers). There is no download required and the website is free! They should know that playing the simulation could take up to 45 minutes.

When we develop games and simulations we always want to know if they produce learning gains and shift attitudes. Conducting an evaluation is always part of the process and the first evaluation of Virtual Clinical Trials will take place in Spring 2013 with high school students and with adults. There is also the possibility of evaluating the simulation with patients. Overall we will conduct several evaluations over the next three to four years assessing the effects of Virtual Clinical Trials on knowledge gains and attitude shifts among various audiences. I will be sure to let everyone know the results from the first evaluation!

Linda Parreco's Image

Hi Kristi--thanks for posting the additional education. Excited to see that the game is being picked up in high schools to support STEM education efforts. 

It's also great to know that AccrualNet members can use this in their clinical settings. If anyone uses the game, please add to this dialog and share your experience. 

Good luck with the evaluation and we'll look forward to hearing about the results!



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