The award-winning OxSTaR team, part of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, have been pioneering the use of simulation-based education (SBE) for over 15 years. Based at the John Radcliffe Hospital, the OxSTaR Centre provides a psychologically safe learning environment for medical students and multidisciplinary healthcare professionals. Since 2008, the core team has grown from two to fourteen members and the extended team now numbers over 50 from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Working with students, industry partners and healthcare professionals, the team focus on the creation and use of innovative digital tools (such as life-like wireless manikins and virtual reality or 'VR') to simulate real-life clinical situations, as well as embedding simulation-based education within the practice of medical educators from early career to established clinicians and academics.
The use of VR (a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment where users interact as avatars with virtual patients, healthcare professionals and clinical environments) has allowed medical students to experience learning in relation to clinical scenarios that are, by their nature, rare or absent from their studies – for example, in paediatric teaching, where there are limited learning opportunities for students to safely experience the realities of diagnosis and treatment of acutely unwell children. In 2022, the success of the team's educational developments in VR led to the piloting of a VR station in the summative assessment of medical students at their end of year objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).
''I am absolutely delighted that the OxSTaR team has been recognised by this national award. The high quality and innovative teaching that they deliver to their students is a great example of what can be achieved through strong collaboration, teamwork, and an inclusive approach to teaching and learning.''
Oxford's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey
During the pandemic the OxSTaR team – many of whom were redeployed as frontline clinicians – implemented a new 'Simulation and Technology Enhanced learning for Up skilling in a Pandemic' project (STEP-UP), which included the development of educational interventions to rapidly implement COVID-safe protocols across hospitals and healthcare settings. Over 90 short educational videos were created in partnership with medical students and foundation doctors, with learning resources made freely available and accessed by over 31,000 healthcare professionals and students from over 165 countries around the world.
In addition, three of OxSTaR's doctoral students developed an innovative way to use the VR platform during the pandemic – to support medical students who were not able to access traditional teaching due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), said, 'The educators and researchers of the OxSTaR team thoroughly deserve this accolade. The innovative, simulation-based education that they have developed over the past 15 years has positively impacted thousands of students in the UK and around the world.'
Helen Higham, Director of the OxSTaR Centre, said, 'I am hugely proud of the team and for their hard work to be recognised. At the heart of what we do is a team ethos that ensures we value everyone's opinions and deliver truly collaborative education. This award has given us a chance to reflect on just how far we have come and to take pride in our achievements. We are really delighted to have won.'