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Dr Beilby wins competitive innovation award

Posted: 1 September

Dr Janet Beilby, from the School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, has won the Innovation in Education Prize in the 2014 Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards for developing an innovative computer-simulated avatar.

Dr Beilby worked with an international team of researchers in developing ‘Jim’ the virtual patient, a computer-based avatar, just like those you find in a computer game.

The avatar is an elderly Australian gentleman with mild dementia who has been programmed with a variety of responses that challenge students to develop complex skills required in situation such as breaking bad news to patients and then managing their confusion and distress.

Dr Beilby said increased numbers of students are entering the healthcare sector, however clinical placements, which assist in their training and development of client interaction skills, are severely limited.

“Jim provides a cost-effective way for students to practise and master essential interpersonal and rapport-building clinical skills before they work with real clients,” Dr Beilby said.

“The simulator challenges students to manage complex scenarios, such as putting the client at ease, delivering bad news and managing clients who are agitated, confused, or feeling depressed.

“Initially, the avatar is controlled by a trainer who chooses its responses based on the student’s verbal and non-verbal behaviours.

“This interaction between the student and ‘Jim’ is recorded for reflection and feedback so that the student is supported and educated with increasing levels of independent responsibility in their management of medically challenging communications.

“This provides standard experiences for all students with the opportunity for repeated practice in a safe environment.”

The next development for the innovative technology will include voice recognition software to allow ‘Jim’ to respond automatically to the student without supervisor guidance.

Dr Beilby received a $5,000 cash prize for her innovation, to find out more about ‘Jim’ the avatar visit –