Imagine walking into an unfamiliar home to assess risks and protective factors for child abuse. Now, imagine doing this without ever leaving your desk.
Chad McDonald, a Ph.D. candidate and faculty in the College of Social Work, developed this idea while trying to improve training for undergraduate students and employees at the Division of Child and Family Services, where he has worked as a trainer and administrator for many years. McDonald is leading a team of researchers who are focusing on workforce development within child welfare, which has led to the creation of a virtual reality photography-based learning tool known as the Virtual Home Simulator (VHS).
McDonald and colleagues collaborated with students and experts from the U’s Therapeutic Games and Apps (GApp) Lab, to produce this state-of-the-art VR training and simulation tool. With the first prototype completed, pilot testing with undergraduate students is the next step. The team also will compare increases in student skill levels against experts to assess the tool’s effectiveness. Future development plans include core casework skills such as engaging, teaming, planning, court-room etiquette, and documentation. “The goal is to focus on the key competencies that are expected of a child welfare worker,” McDonald said.
Find this article and a lot more in the 2018 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers and entrepreneurs.