UNSW spin-off company, Smart Sparrow, will trial virtual learning tools and teaching resources for university students across Australia using the National Broadband Network (NBN), under a $3.3 million Federal Government grant announced today.
The Smart Sparrow software is an adaptive e-learning platform that gives students the ability to use virtual patients, clinics, dissecting rooms and lab and diagnostic tools to learn.
The company was created in 2011 from a research group in the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
The grant has been provided under the $27.2 million NBN-enabled Education and Skills Services Program, which is a four-year program that aims to source, develop and implement projects associated with first-release NBN sites.
Smart Sparrow will work with the Biomedical Education Skills and Training (BEST) Network to create new virtual learning tools and teaching resources for medical and nursing university students.
Smart Sparrow allows students to learn in a virtual environment and allows teachers to adapt content based on a student’s level of knowledge about certain topics. Teachers are also able to track a student’s progress to identify gaps in their knowledge.
It has previously been used at the UNSW's medical department for virtual labs, virtual microscopy, adaptive tutorials and virtual patients. For example, virtual experiments can be conducted with scientifically accurate results.
Similar resources will be rolled out across Australian universities under the grant, such as virtual dissecting rooms and laboratory spaces and a national medical image bank.
Smart Sparrow creator and CEO, Dr Ben-Naim, previously told Computerworld Australia the NBN meant high impact, quality content could be delivered to anywhere in Australia.
“Specifically, the virtual patients which are high bandwidth smart applications will be able to deploy to any device anywhere on the continent. In that sense, the NBN is crucial for delivering high quality content education,” he said.
Professor Nick Hawkins, head of the school of medical sciences at UNSW, said the NBN is transforming education in Australia.
“The fact that students can access high quality biomedical education resources from anywhere in Australia is transformative – and it challenges us to rethink the way we see our role as educators," he said.
Smart Sparrow has also previously received a $1.2 project from Health Workforce Australia to develop virtual patients for use across New South Wales.
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