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The high-tech country classroom

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14 April 2011

Professor Debra Nestel
Professor Debra Nestel

Monash University’s Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences is extending the in-person classroom environment to medical students on work placement in rural Victoria.

The ability to connect over distance is via Cisco TelePresence, an immersive, lifelike communications experience that combines high-definition video and high-quality audio to realistically convey the body language and human elements that are critical to the interactive nature of a classroom.

With Cisco TelePresence rolled out at the Gippsland Medical School in Churchill and other training locations in rural Victoria – including regional clinical schools in Traralgon and Bairnsdale – the University can provide students with access to teaching staff, irrespective of where they are based, and as though they are all sitting in the same tutorial room. Cisco TelePresence allows students at these rural-based campuses, located up to 300 kilometres away from the Melbourne Central Business District (CBD), to gain new educational opportunities and enjoy richer and more productive collaborative learning experiences.

A range of additional projects are planned, including student-led peer-assisted learning, research supervision of postgraduate students, simulated patient-led coaching for students, master classes in patient-centred communication, revision of clinical skills, and support for international medical graduates.

Debra Nestel, Professor of Medical Education at Monash University’s Gippsland Medical School said they were also seeking opportunities to partner with other institutions, enabling learning exchanges between rural and metropolitan environments, both in Australia and overseas.

“With the implementation of Cisco TelePresence, we are at the forefront of providing educational innovation in a rural environment. We aim to offer the right level of student supervision at the right time and in the right place. The technology enables us to have increased and continual access to students at clinical sites throughout the region so we can maintain this level of supervision,” Professor Nestel said.

“This has been a very momentous 12 months in terms of the health landscape in Australia. The Victorian Government initiative ‘Roads to Rural Practice’ has explored a framework for improving the education, training, retention and recruitment of medical students, pre-vocational doctors and vocational trainees in rural Victoria.

The Gippsland Medical School is a foundation member of the Gippsland Primary Health Interest Group that is leading the region through these changing times,” Professor Nestel said.