Software Development & XR Technologies Specialist

Kimmo Pakarinen, RDI Advisor, Savonia University of Applied Sciences

Bachelor of Engineering, Information Technology, Savonia University of Applied Sciences

As newest member of the FutureEdu team, I might not have as much work experience on field of health care. Since we got our first computer in early 90´s, I have always been interested in computers and new technologies. In first years, I was mostly interested in playing computer games, but soon I was building my own computers and got interested in game development. Later, I also got interested in 3D modelling and software development. And finally, I decided to get degree on Information Technology.

During my studies I did my internship for FutureEdu -project, which included making proof of concepts and demos on how can FutureEdu -project utilize XR technologies in health care education and training. I also did Virtual Reality environment where users can learn and train usage of an microscope as my thesis for FutureEdu -project.

My expertise for the project
Taking note of my background, in Future Technologies in Education -project, my main responsibilities are XR technologies, software development and other digitalization technologies. As I have recently graduated (Feb 2020) I have good understanding of current studying methods and what could be interesting ways to learn as a student.

The World is always changing, and technology is constantly advancing, why shouldn´t teaching methods also evolve?

Virtual Learning Environment in the FutureEdu project

Welcome to listen the discussion about the FutureEdu project coordinated by Savonia UAS, which develops virtual learning environments together with working life. The virtual learning environments are a clinical laboratory, an operating room and equipment maintenance room.  You can hear from our experts Anssi Mähönen, Sirkka-Liisa Halimaa, Susanna Vuohelainen and Tommi Kinnunen, from Savonia UAS and  Sakky’s expert Jaana Heiskanen.

In Finnish 

Biomedical Laboratory Science Expert

Susanna Vuohelainen
ecturer in Biomedical laboratory science, Savonia University of Applied Sciences

• Bachelor degree in Biomedical laboratory Science, Savonia University of Applied Sciences
• Master degree in Biotechnology and Molecular Biology, University of Eastern Finland
• Currently studying at the School of Professional Teacher Education, JAMK University of Applied Sciences

Work experience
• More than 10 years’ working experience in a clinical pathology lab of Central hospital of Central Finland, multiple responsibilities
• Few years’ experience in the research of biotechnology in the A.I. Virtanen institute, studying metabolism of the polyamines and diabetes
• Two years as a product specialist in a chemistry company with development, manufacturing and sales in the segments of infectious disease diagnostics and liquid based solutions and reagents of life sciences (IVD products)
• A full time lecturer in Biomedical Laboratory Science in Savonia University of Applied Science, from august 2019 I have working experience from university, public health care and private company. In addition to this background, I have a wide social network of professionals in the branch of clinical laboratory science and biotechnology.

International experience
• Exchange student in Mozambique (one semester)
• Working in international research groups at the University and at the private company

My expertise for the project
Because of my background, my main expertise to this project is in the field of laboratory science, especially in histology and molecular medicine. During the years in the A.I. Virtanen institute, I learned to plan projects and apply methods in the field of molecular medicine and gene technology. In my current work as a lecturer, I observe the need for new technologies in teaching. We need to find new ways of teaching and to motivate students and new employees. Modern digital methods and environments are been developed to support the traditional hand-to-hand teaching. I have up-to-date experience and knowledge of practical work in such environments where the project aims to develop those new ways of teaching.

XR Technologies in Nursing Education

XR Technologies in Nursing Education

XR technologies and digitalization are changing the world. Different kinds of devices of XR technologies are beginning to be in consumer prices. Nowadays you can buy simple VR glasses by less than twenty euros. Of course, the best ones are more expensive and may cost thousands of euros. In the simplest way, those technologies are already in our mobile phones applications and features.

XR technologies are changing the health care and health care education too. Nursing shortage, which is a worldwide problem, can benefits a lot from the possibilities brought by XR technologies. This problem, together with the financial demands and decreasing practical training placement forces educators to find adequate teaching methods, that are more effective, attractive and present new ways of doing things.

In health care education, simulation pedagogy, learning practical, technical skills sessions are widely used before starting the on-the-job learning and clinical practice. Students gradually get more into practice, applying the knowledge to each situation and gathering more experience and new competencies and skills. When we think about the VR – content and application, what should we emphasize for an appropriate VR simulator? Of course, the usability, the right and authentic content are essential features. “The feeling of being there” is important. That means that the virtual environment becomes the dominant reality and the user has the feeling of having visited a place rather than just seeing images of it (Bracq et all 2019).

Other aspects to take into account are the technical and pedagogical features. Technical features include technological requirements, for example, possible bugs and gestures needed when using the scenario. Pedagogical features include the overall feedback from the scenario, the effective way the user can progress in the scenario and the guidance given to user during the scenario.

Virtual reality and other XR technologies can play an important role in the transition toward an authentic working environment in a cost-effective way. VR can be used to create different nursing simulations and scenarios, from wards to operating rooms and to practice wide selection of skills and tasks. These VR simulations and scenarios can be a part of a lesson, but also more and more self-learning tools. VR content is usable at any time and at any place, as long as the user has the required hardware and software. Of course, the guidance for the use is also needed.

Virtual and augmented reality in health care is being used, for example in therapies, in pain treatment, nursing and surgery. In our project, we are going to create a virtual environment for operating room, where VR technologies will be used. Here, I will have a look to three VR applications for nursing education currently found on the market.

Let us first start with the PeriopSim, which seem to be one of the most appropriate solution for our operating virtual environment. PeriopSim focus on surgical training and assessment for the operating team. It has been developed in close collaboration with surgeons, nurses, educators and neuroscientists. There are modules for surgery and for the instrumentation. Both modules are interactive and have several surgical procedures. There is also assessment and scoring in both modules. Briefly, users can practice and be assess on a procedure, on the anticipation of surgeon and sterile spheres, sharpness of safety, sterilization of technique, instrumentation and passing technique.

Our second option, the Oxford Medical Simulation, which does not provide scenarios for intraoperative nursing care at the moment, do have a very good feedback system in their application. What you do as a user, affects the scenario. User can have feedback about what went well and what to improve. The completion time of the scenario is also showed. The user can have analytics of the progress and skills performance. Teacher can see when students have been practicing and can see analytics for the group or individual student. One disadvantage is that user do not have to use hand devices, so the experience is not fully immersive VR.

UbiSim, our third option, claims to be the world’s first immersive VR training platform for nursing. Even though they are continually adding scenarios and environments, unfortunately, I did not found any new intraoperative nursing (that does not mean they do not have one). What is very good in UbiSim is that they have also debriefing after the session. You can visualize the whole recording session and reflect with self-guided questions. You can also review the personalized performance feedback and go through a quiz to assess your understanding.

Like mentioned in the beginning, XR technologies can be one remedy for nursing shortage. Virtual simulators are suitable for almost everybody. Based on a study done about training scrub nurses in the preparation of the instrumentation table, issues such as age, gender and experience had no effect on the evaluation of acceptability of the simulator (Bracq et all 2019).

Besides all the good in VR, there are also disadvantages in virtual reality. Several studies have pointed out, that user can suffer oculomotor fatigue, nausea and global simulator sickness. (Bracq et all 2019) I hope that this will be overcome as technology further develops. At the same time, we cannot go on only by technology ahead. Technology is not an answer for everything. Traditional learning methods are good too. This is particularly good to keep in mind, when considering that we have different learners and learning styles. We must also discuss and further study the effectiveness of the education with these technologies.

Bracq, M-S., Michinov, E., Arnaldi, B., Caillaud, B., Gibaud B., Gouranton, V., Jannin, P. (2019). Learning procedural skills with a virtual reality simulator: An acceptability study, Nurse Education Today 79 (2019, 153-160.
Oxford Medical Simulation (read 19.5.2020)
PeriopSim (read 19.5.2020)
UbiSim (read 19.5.2020)

Written by Jaana Heiskanen

Virtual learning environments in the Biomedical Laboratory Science (BMLS) in Savonia

The development of education has been at the center in Finland, which has also made international parties interested in the excellence of Finnish education. Among certain universities, it is part of Finland’s national success story, but the rapidly changing world challenges to renew and reform education further. Over the past years, the programs of Finnish governments have emphasized to develop the diversity of education, lifelong learning, more easy access to education, flexible learning paths and the utilization of digitalization.

In the University of Applied Sciences Act, one of the main tasks are the education and training of new experts and to do research, development and innovation (RDI) work where the needs of work life and its development are at the center. In addition, Universities are asked to plan and implement education together with work life. This phenomenon can be seen e.g. in cases where the education is implemented to different areas of Finland having the shortage of the workforce. These cases education is implemented utilizing various online, distance and satellite education models. These new implementation models challenge to reform education.

The Savonia University of Applied Sciences’ degree program in BMLS has developed a new education model, called as satellite education model, during 2014-2017. In this model, students can study remotely in several different locations of Finland. In satellite education model, the hospital laboratory as a working life organization and the University of Applied Sciences as the organizer of education have been jointly designed, implemented and developed the degree program in accordance with their own roles. One of the development challenge has been to increase the student’s education and practical training in authentic environment in work life. This satellite education model aims to meet the above mentioned challenge to reform and renew education.

New training models, like satellite education model, must support the goals described above and also be a cost-effective. Satellite education model combines modern technologies, digitalization opportunities, work life and educational organizations. Education in virtual learning environments at their best increases opportunities combine education, authentic learning environments and surrounding society into the one entity.

Learning environments as a promoter of student competence
The Sotevi- project (Virtual Learning Environments in the Social and Health Sector, funded by ESF), coordinated by Savonia University of Applied Sciences, started to build digital learning environments in which students can study independently, regardless of time and place. This project was a pilot for the project of Future Technologies in Education (FutureEdu). In FutureEdu- project, virtual work life orientated learning environment are developed, whereas in Sotevi-project developed virtual learning environments related to the premises of University of Applied Sciences. In Sotevi-project, learning environments are based on a 360 ° / 3D image corresponding to the real world, where students can virtually move around and learn new issues. This learning take place on the screen of student’s own mobile device or computer.

The laboratory classes in the various expertise areas used by the BMLS degree program of Savonia University of Applied Sciences were described as Matterport (360 ° / 3D) environments (Figure 1). The Matterport description provides a three-dimensional image of the spaces, enabling the student to move virtually within the laboratory spaces and view them, as well as to become familiar with the learning materials there. These created environments can be used already when applying for studies, getting more familiar with study facilities and studying in certain clinical laboratory expertise area. All the study contents of the professional studies, based on to the curriculum, can be rebuilt to those learning environments.
Figure 1. Matterport (360 ° / 3D) environments in the degree programme of Biomedical Laboratory Science.

Thinglink application can be used to make virtual descriptions of the environment for teaching. The teacher can embed additional information into the Thinglink environment with pictures, videos, sound, theoretical information or interactive presentations concerning the topic to be learned. The Thinglink was used to build a section related to the module named as “Learning Clinical Laboratory Work” (Figure 2). In this module students can study all theoretical knowledge and practical operating models related to the safe working in clinical laboratory and also some basic working methods of clinical laboratory work, regardless of time and place.
Figure 2. Thinglink environment concerning the module named as “Learning Clinical Laboratory Work”.

iSpring Suite is a PowerPoint-based learning environment creation tool that allows a teacher to take slide-based courses, knowledge tests, interactive simulations, video lectures, and other interactive learning materials. With the help of the application, a Laboratory safety competence- test was performed for the module described above. With the test, the student demonstrates his / her competence, receives immediate feedback and guidance if there are deficiencies in the competence. The teacher receives information about the completion of the section when the student’s competence is sufficient. After this knowledge test, the student can practice what they have learned in a real clinical laboratory environment.

Creating a learning environment where the student is a key player is a challenge for the teacher. The use of the game as a pedagogical tool supports the student’s own role as an active learner and actor. The purpose of the “Labor-Antti blood sampling game” created in the Sotevi- project was to learn the steps of the venous blood sampling process. The game offers the student a meaningful way to learn new things. In the role of an active actor, the student has to process the information learned and think about how he or she can apply what he or she has learned in practice. Playing can be an effective, fun, and encouraging way to learn. The feedback is immediate and you can follow the learning progress by yourself.

Virtual learning environments from the perspective of the students and the teachers
The digitalization of activities and services and the development of new technology challenge teachers to develop a new kind of pedagogical development and change in study practices. Methods that enable teaching and learning have been developed for a long time with the help of technology. This has enabled students to study more and more independently through online. New technologies make it possible to transfer teaching to virtual learning environments. These learning environments do not require the student to be physically present during lessons. They can have spaces that virtually simulate an authentic environment and in which the student can combine theoretical knowledge with practice. In addition, it is possible to return to the learning material over and over again according to their own needs.

From a teacher’s perspective, moving content to virtual learning environments takes time, but rewards when the work is done. Virtual and augmented reality (VR, AR) can be implemented on a wide variety of hardware and at many levels. It must be remembered, however, that a virtual environment cannot replace training in a real laboratory. Learning skills such as social and interaction skills as well as manual skills takes place best in real environments. Virtual learning environments develop satellite training in Savonia and provide new opportunities for both national and international distance learning.

From the student’s point of view, the advantages of virtual learning environments are e.g. the fact that the student can return to the study material over and over again or practice in multi-stage laboratory research processes. Flexible learning environments increase the opportunity for more students to study according to their own schedule. Studying in virtual environments increases the responsibility for the learning process from teacher to student. The effectiveness of virtual learning environments was also studied in the Sotevi-project. The preliminary results were encouraging.

According to the results, the learning outcomes have been good. The technical usability of the materials was felt to be very good. The material was interesting, of high quality in content and relevant information was easy to find. Learning environments promoted and accelerated learning. The pedagogical usability of the study material was also found to be good. The learning materials were considered to be well suited to this content of learning. In addition, the content was perceived as relevant to the profession. The learning objectives were clearly stated and the learning material clarified and motivated the students to study the content. Compared to traditional learning material, this type of virtual learning material brought an added value to learning. The study material is well suited for practice. The learning test that accompanies the learning material provided useful feedback on learning. Students wanted a similar type of virtual environments for other learning entities as well.


One of the novelty values of the project is the virtual learning environments created in the Savonia BMLS degree program. They offer students a new way to learn. These virtual environments takes the learning experience to a new level. Good virtual learning experiences can increase the attractiveness, effectiveness and quality of education. In the future, the virtual learning environments of Savonia’s laboratory facilities will be expanded to the different areas of expertise areas of the clinical laboratory. The student can virtually move from one class to other and choose the specialty or topic to be studied at any given time. Teaching material is added to virtual learning environments in the form of texts, images, videos, video lectures, work instructions, interactive tests or experiments.

In this project, Savonia’s research and innovation activities will open up new channels of effectiveness for the following projects, which will develop education based on students and working life. The development of satellite training with virtual learning environments enables a diverse training offer that can be utilized by different user groups.

Sirkka-Liisa Halimaa and Anssi Mähönen