Friday, September 8, 2023

VR and Virtual internships and VR for Crisis Management

The Australian Crisis Simulation Summit at the Australian National University has wrapped up after a successful week's hard work. One reason I volunteered to mentor, was to see how this was done. I have done some training at Australian Staff College, back in the days when bits of paper were used, and wanted to see how teaching in this area has evolved. Some of these techniques might be used for computer students.

What was most striking about the ACSS, was the use of video conferencing for a hybrid mode. Base of operations was in Canberra, but with groups of students, and some presenters, distributed around Australia, and a couple of US universities. This format fitted well with the subject matter. The students at each remote site were playing the role of a government agency crisis team. In reality, each team would be communicating with their counterparts electronically. Those in the main venue were in separate rooms, and also used electronic means to communicate.

Conducttr crisis simulation software was used for the simulated news items, and social media. Zoom was used for 24 hour news service. Microsoft Teams was used for team to team video. Google dos was used for group document preparation. It might be worth considering the use of a tool such as Slack, which could incorporate all these functions. However, the use of the tools which are used in the real workplace is worthwhile.

It might be interesting to include specialist technical students in the simulations. This one features cyber security, satellites, submarines and other defence related technology. One of the problems experienced in a real crisis is to quickly get usable, understandable, relevant advice from experts. It would be useful to have teams of law, computer, and engineering students practicing providing time critical advice. 

A professional media company, Shoelace Creative, was brought in to produce live TV news for the simulations, using a student with media experience as the interviewer.  For smaller scale events, this might be replaced with an AI newsreader.

A difficult question is if such simulations could be incorporated into the curriculum. This requires assessment. There is a risk that assessing the simulation would take the fun out of it for the students, and the external mentors. I suggest this could be handled in a similar way to internships: documents generated as part of the process are used for group assessment, plus an individual personal reflection. Rubrics can be used to reduce the burden of assessment for staff. 

Some VR and AR might make the simulations more realistic. One gimmick demonstrated at EduTech 2023 Australia recently was a hologram-like booth, which showed a remote presenter. A simpler form of this could be done by positioning a conventional flat screen behind a podium, so the presenter appears to be standing there. 

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