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Facilitate Student Simulation-Based Learning Experiences Virtually During COVID-19

Updated: May 17, 2023

Kaila Vento, Arizona State University

Kathy Dixon, Arizona State University

Simulation-based learning experiences (SBLEs) assist emerging health professional students (e.g., nursing, dentistry, psychotherapy, dietetics) in exercising communication skills and pertinent knowledge (Al-Elq, 2010). Verbal and non-verbal communication is essential to effectively provide health services, leading to strong bonds with patients in achieving health goals. SBLEs increase students' clinical and interpersonal skills in a safe learning environment, contributing to successful occupation performances (Al-Elq, 2010). Unfortunately, given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many educators cannot hold in-person SBLEs. Traditional classroom learning has given way to online instruction or directly impacted by social distancing (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Furthermore, in-person SBLEs require protective face coverings, hindering student's abilities to discern facial expressions when role-playing. Whether teaching a traditional SBLE or virtual laboratory, educators face challenges assessing student's hands-on learning.

A Solution: Zoom

Technology-based SBLEs, delivered through platforms such as Zoom, can be a resourceful tool for health professional educators in helping students prepare for patient interactions. Originally designed to connect professionals from across the globe, Zoom has increased its popularity within classrooms and clinical settings (Sutterlin, 2018; Waldman, Waldman, Waldman, & Abuabara 2020).

With a click of a link, Zoom allows real-time virtual connection between students and educators in discussing course materials or clinicians and patients in providing health services.

Aside from live-feed, SBLEs may benefit from Zoom features, including audio-video recording and transcription services. These features enable students and educators to reevaluate language used, range and pitch of voice tone, body interactions, and health advice offered after role-playing scenarios. Minimal materials and expenses are required to operate Zoom, making this an economical SBLE option for educators. The additional benefits of remote access and ease of scheduling place less burden on students and educators' commute time, particularly for those living long distances from campus (Sayem, Taylor, McClanachan, & Mumtahina, 2017). Furthermore, telehealth successfully provides health services and may be the future norm (Wijesooriya, Mishra, Brand, & Rubin, 2020).

Hear Our Student's Views of Zoom SBLEs

Our students rated SBLEs delivered through zoom positively. The application features (i.e., audio, video, and transcription) were of good quality for them to use when conducting self-evaluations. Twenty-four of our undergraduate dietetic students participated in Zoom SBLEs, role-playing as dietitians and patients to develop relevant communication and counseling skills needed to be competitive candidates for dietetic internships. All students stated Zoom was easy to navigate, a convenient method to conduct simulations, and improved their verbal skills. Eighty-eight percent and 92% believed their non-verbal (e.g., body language) and observational (e.g., listening) skills benefitted from the Zoom SBLEs, respectively. One-hundred percent of students reported a preference for having the educator present for the Zoom simulated-counseling sessions. Student's stated "yes" for Zoom features having audible sound, video visibility, and correct transcription as 100%, 100%, and 96%, respectively. Ninety-six percent of students rated the overall quality of Zoom simulations as excellent and good and recommended Zoom for future Nutrition Counseling courses.

Things To Consider

• Introduce a Zoom tutorial. Three-fourths of students stated an introductory tutorial of Zoom would be beneficial before conducting Zoom SBLEs.

• Be present during student's Zoom SBLEs. All students favored having the educator facilitating the Zoom simulated-counseling sessions and providing immediate feedback.

• Zoom is solely for educational purposes. Zoom is not Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) compliant. Real clinician-patient SBLEs must use Zoom for Healthcare platform to ensure patient protection.


Reduced enrollment of in-person courses, minimal student-to-student interaction, and movements towards telehealth merits using technology-based SBLEs. Zoom is a viable SBLE tool for educators that allows real-time role-playing scenarios and enhanced features for subsequent student learning outcome assessments.


Thank you to our students who contributed to providing Zoom simulation-based learning feedback. Arizona State University IRB STUDY00011859.

Discussion Questions

1. How have your students responded to virtual teaching methods?

2. What concerns do you have in using technology-based SBLEs?

3. Have you been part of a technology-based SBLE as a student or educator prior? Please share your experience.


Al-Elq, A. H. (2010). Simulation-based medical teaching and learning. Journal of Family & Community Medicine, 17(1), 35–40.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020, May 30). Considerations for Institutions of Higher education.

Sayem, A. S. M., Taylor, B., McClanachan, M., & Mumtahina, U. (2017). Effective use of zoom technology and instructional videos to improve engagement and success of distance students in engineering. In 28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017) (p. 926). Australasian Association for Engineering Education.

Sutterlin, J. (2018). Learning is Social with Zoom Video Conferencing in your Classroom. eLearn, 2018(12).

Waldman, S. D., Waldman, C. W., Waldman, R. A., & Abuabara, J. O. (2020). How to use technology and telehealth to enhance the interprofessional community of practice. Building a Patient-Centered Interprofessional Education Program,113-119. IGI Global.

Wijesooriya, N. R., Mishra, V., Brand, P. L., & Rubin, B. K. (2020). COVID-19 and telehealth, education, and research adaptations. Paediatric Respiratory Reviews.

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