ATEC Prof to Take Clinical Concepts to Virtual World

Sept. 3, 2009

Assistant Professor Marjorie Zielke has been awarded a three-year, $350,000 grant to create online training in neonatal nursing through an ongoing collaboration with the UT Arlington School of Nursing (UTASON).

Zielke, with Arts and Technology (ATEC) faculty members Monica Evans, Frank Dufour and Todd Fechter, will build a Web site that allows student nurses to be taught concurrently by faculty from Dartmouth University, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the University of Texas at Arlington and Stony Brook University School of Nursing in New York.  The new research enhances subject matter review and creates a more portable learning experience.

“Student learning will be enriched by faculty perspectives from across the country,” said Zielke. “Students also will benefit from the social community of other graduate-level nursing students through this virtual learning environment.”

The course subject matter covers conditions in fetuses and babies under 2 years old.  Students can download a lecture as a podcast or video, and then follow up with a virtual examination of an infant in a no-risk environment. The virtual environment allows for endless practice and limitless scenarios in a risk-free environment. For instance, the instructor can program symptoms such as respiratory distress into a 3D model, rather than teach based on the conditions of patients visiting a clinic or hospital on a given day.

ATEC students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels also will participate in this project, performing research, modeling, animation, story development and computer programming.

Research project sponsors are the UTASON, with principal investigator Dr. Judy Leflore, and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Professor Zielke is thinking beyond the virtual classroom. In addition to her work on grants from The University of Texas System and other healthcare organizations, she plans to create a virtual baby, which is difficult because of the current technology used to capture motion. A researcher cannot, for instance, direct an infant to raise its right arm so that the cameras and computers can capture every nuance of the movement as a basis for animation.

“We like to take on complex projects that no one really knows how to do,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in being able to represent humans virtually, both physically and cognitively. Representing non-verbal communication is especially challenging.  This line of research has the potential to make a major difference in the way online medical education and medical simulations are done today.”


Media Contacts:  Karah Hosek, UT Dallas, 972-883-4329, karah.hosek@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Frank Dufour   “Student learning will be enriched by faculty perspectives from across the country,” Marjorie Zielke (above) said of her project. Other ATEC professors working on the project are (counterclockwise from left) Frank Dufour, Monica Evans and Todd Fechter.
     
  Todd Fechter

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