Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctorate of Education in Educational Technology


Educational Technology

Major Advisor

Chareen Snelson, Ph.D.


Brett E. Shelton, Ph.D.


Dazhi Yang, Ph.D.


The influx of medical technology and medical knowledge creates challenges for healthcare providers in maintaining up to date knowledge and skills for their practice. Healthcare educators are further challenged in that the goal is to encourage learners to become competent healthcare providers who are knowledgeable and skilled, self-directed, and who will think critically and ethically when faced with challenging situations. Advancing imaging technologies and new complex procedures in radiology increase the risk of harm for patients and providers as advanced imaging is often learned outside of a primary degree in radiology with real patients through on the job training. Online education has been a way for the profession to extend needed education to working technologists, however, radiology education programs need ways to improve the level of learning in online advanced modality courses. This study explored an innovative teaching method to identify which will aid in current and future demands in radiology. Based on a review of the literature on scenarios, simulations, and virtual learning environments, virtual scenario-based branching simulations were designed, built, and implemented for this study. The virtual 2D role-playing scenario in which the student played the role of a new technologist in an advanced imaging suite provided students an opportunity for experiential learning online. The branching design, in which the patient and storyline evolves with the learner’s decisions required the learner to think critically and draw upon previous knowledge to make decisions about what should be done. This changed the direction of the stories and the outcomes of the virtual patients and personnel. The simulations were designed to enhance the level of learning in magnetic resonance imaging and in computed tomography online courses. They were tested with 57 advanced modality students to determine the impact the virtual scenario-based branching design had on student satisfaction with the experience and also their perceived confidence in making critical decisions in real practice.

This mixed methods case study provided an analysis of both quantitative and rich qualitative data in a concurrent design. The participant voice provided insight into how this experience positively impacted this particular group of students and it also provided support for further development of virtual scenario-based simulations in a healthcare context.

The implications for these simulations are wide-ranging. From the results of this study, this innovation appeared to provide a level of learning that emulated a clinical rotation. As the education of healthcare professionals requires deliberate practice of technical and cognitive skills, these simulations do not aim to replace hands-on learning with actual patients, but they do aim to improve student satisfaction in learning and to enhance the perceived confidence in transferring their knowledge to enhance actual practice, thereby minimizing risk to patients.