Measuring drug dosages is a problem for college students of all specialties, but the University of Stavanger in Norway is the first to propose a game to help its students learn to calculate the proper amounts.
Well, some students, anyway. For those learning to be nurses, drug calculations are one of the most important parts of the curriculum; considering most medicines can damage or kill you if you receive too high a dose, it's a requirement we can get behind. Problem is, if you make even a single mistake on the relevant exam, you fail and you're barred from working as a nurse. At UiS, the fail percentage has been between 36 and 39 over the past few years. Other colleges can see rates as high as fifty percent. It's a conundrum: how do you train students to pass such an important examination?
The answer, as we all know, is video games.
Stavanger's unit for online studies, NettOp, is now testing a different kind of learning aid: a drug measurement computer game. Although those of us who grew up in the nineties are familiar with games like Oregon Trail, which taught us the practical meat-carrying capacity of frontier wagons, doctoral student Lars Rune S%26aelig;terdal thinks that early math and science training may not be enough:
"My impression is that many nursing students do not trust their skills in mathematics and science from high school. That might be one reason why they struggle with this particular subject. Computer games can be a good supplement."
Above: Max Payne was handy with a gun, but he would have been crap as a pharmacist
But this isn%26rsquo;t Max Payne, whose constant consumption of painkillers would cause liver failure within the first five minutes of gameplay. This is a pharmaceutical simulation, so NettOp's game will use real-world dosages to reinforce the necessary knowledge and prepare students to score well on the exam. Project leader Petter Mordt says that the game will be designed to be used alongside the existing classes as an extra aid for those who need it.
NettOp's game will be distributed to nursing students in August. Happily, this isn't the last program of its kind; NettOp has received a grant to continue developing educational games. The next one will be a bigger game that deals with "drug handling from the prescription in the medicine storage room to the injection on the patient."
Atle Lokken, director of NettOp, thinks these games have a lot of potential. "World of Warcraft is the world's biggest arena for problem-based learning. Here millions of unknown persons [...] solve challenges together. That is far beyond what a teacher may achieve in a classroom."
Whether or not NettOp's games will be WoW-killers remains to be seen, but the inevitable mods are sure to be a riot.
Jul 31, 2010