What is VPBLM?

The Virtual Patient Based Learning Model implements a set of research-based instructional design strategies that blend current state-of-the-art instructional technology with online teaching practices that promote language fluency and cultural competence in a complex Spanish for Medical Professional learning environment. In this process, healthcare students explore core communication concepts, practice with voice-enabled Spanish-speaking virtual patients, and then connect practiced communication skills in a clinical or community healthcare setting.

What does it solve?

Several years of program implementation have exposed the four important needs as evidenced through student feedback, instructor experience, and instructional design support. The goal of this project is to find innovative and meaningful solutions through a systematic research design process to achieve better context, relevance, practice, and community.

  1. Context — Multiple instructional resources are used in support of the Spanish for Medical Professionals program including printed guides, online resources, Google Docs, Quizlet, and GoReact. These resources tend to divert attention away from of the core instructional material delivered through Moodle.
    Solution — Implementation of a new HTML-5 lesson template designed to embed resources rather than link out to them in addition to seeking single sign-on opportunities where possible.
  2. Relevance — Spanish for Medical Professionals program serves eight disciplines. Unfortunately, the majority of textbooks offer a one size fits all curriculum that expose students to a range of medical vocabulary and practices not relevant to their professional discipline.
    Solution — Replace required textbook resources with optional low-cost grammar guides, discipline specific quick reference study cards, and a variety of Open Educational Resources.
  3. Practice — Second language instructional activities focus to heavily written response which is important, but oral repetition is needed for strengthening listening and speaking activities.
    Solution — Implement adaptive learning instructional design process that individually tailors instructional content to pre-assesseed student skill levels. Students have the ability to progress or regress through skills levels based on their performance and motivation.
  4. Community — Interaction with Virtual Patients offer advantages of instructional flexibility in a low anxiety environment, however the practical application of language skills have to be development with direct communication with spanish speaking communities.
    Solution — Development of community connection activities that offers opportunities to practice communication skills with local community based healthcare associations and international interdisciplinary cohorts.

How does it work?

The Virtual Patient Based Learning Model incorporates several instructional design strategies based on research in student engagement, motivation, and gaming. It is built around a framework that provides individualized instruction based on student pre-assessed skill level and study discipline.


The Virtual Patient Based Learning Models is built in-part from the following theoretical leaning and instructional design models.
  • Engagement Theory — Whitton, N. (2011). Game Engagement Theory and Adult Learning. Simulation & Gaming, 42(5), 596–609. http://doi.org/10.1177/1046878110378587
  • ARCS Model of Motivation — Poulsen, A., Lam, K., Cisneros, S., & Trust, T. (2008). ARCS Model of Motivational Design. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/download/30947607/ITH_Trust.pdf
  • Design Theory — Cobb, P., Confrey, J., Lehrer, R., Schauble, L., & others. (2003). Design experiments in educational research. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 9–13. Retrieved from http://edr.sagepub.com/content/32/1/9.short

Exploracion — The exploration section introduces students to a set of core communication goals and concepts with emphasis on Latino patient cultural norms. Activities include review of important phrases, grammar lessons, and demonstration videos with a practical narrative. Additional side bar exploration is available to students that need further grammar support.

Practica — The practice section presents opportunities for student to practice key phrases and vocabulary through realtime voice interaction with a virtual patient. Students practice across three levels of difficulty based on pre-assessment score. Each level regulates the difficulty, speed, and feedback.

New Virtual Patient System (In development)

Example of previous Virtual Patient system

Conectar — The connect section is designed to offers students the opportunity to apply what they have practiced in a real-world setting through interaction with Spanish-Spanish-speaking community members or through international interactions.

Where can this go?

The Virtual Patient Based Learning Module follow an instructional design process of continuous improvement. It will be made available as an open source resource to ensure a continued lifespan. Currently there is interest in exploring gerontology possibilities and with pharmacology.