Manikins and VR Machines: Virtual Reality Exploration with The CSUCI Nursing Program

Have you ever wanted to be in the room right when a manikin gives a not-so-live birth to a baby manikin? Imagine it if you will, to float in the middle of it all at any moment you desire; being able to look around and see the sweat perspire on the brows of nervous young nursing students, witnessing the moments of birth second by second.  There is a growing demand for this kind of experience, not just on the fringes of the deep web, but as a part of a technological renaissance in higher education that is springing up across the nation because of growing opportunities that virtual and augmented reality provides for teaching. With over 20 million VR users expected in the world by 2020, CSU Channel Islands took the plunge into VR this year by tasking the FIT Studio team to begin exploring how our campus can utilize these new technologies within our diverse learning communities (Nagal, 2017).

Theta 360 VR Camera

Picture of a Theta 360 Camera

The first opportunities for CSU Channel Islands to delve into launching our own VR endeavors was neatly delivered to the FIT Studio wrapped in small white packages. The two Theta 360 Cameras that came across my desk earlier this year are about the size of a small TV remote and allow users to capture a picture or video of the entire area surrounding the camera. These images and videos can then be uploaded to a variety of platforms such as YouTube and Canvas courses, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in whatever environment or scenario was captured by the Theta 360 by way of VR headset or in-browser viewer. The possibilities of educational application for this kind of technology is vast and seemingly endless, however,  we started simply by focusing our sights down to a few concrete VR projects faculty members could really dig their hands into and sprout the base for a school-wide VR technology adoption.


As one of the leads for the VR exploration, we began asking faculty partners who have expressed technological interests to me in the past if they wanted to play around with the new VR cameras for a bit, and see if any ideas they wanted to further develop came from their light explorations. No sooner had this been proposed, Dr. Jaime Hannans of the Nursing program came back to us with a plethora of ideas about the training opportunities that VR images and videos could provide for her classes of fledgling nursing students. Over the next few months, we began an ongoing collaboration around developing demo tools that Jaime could use to introduce nursing students to the clinical environments that they would be interacting with during their education at CSUCI.


Live version of Jaime’s nursing lab tour

Jaime’s first foray into the realm of virtual reality was a simple yet effective demo she set up to show the new nursing students what it was like inside of the school’s simulation laboratory. The point of the project was to take a 360 degree photo of the simulation lab  and then use an online application called ThingLink to annotate different parts of the image with points of interest in the simulation lab that students could then click on and be directed to descriptions of different devices in the laboratory, related YouTube videos, websites, and even surveys and quizzes as part of her classroom lesson plan. This was in hopes that it could eventually help equate new students to the laboratory environment in a creative yet educational way before they even physically step foot in the building.


To explain the simulation lab a bit more, this area of the nursing department is much like any other hospital wing with clean linen beds in neat rows accompanied by a variety of equipment whose clicks and beeps reassure all that pass by that life is being preserved behind each folding privacy curtain. Pull back these curtains, however, and the patients that lie in these beds are plastic manikins.

Nursing student caring for newborn manikin

Nursing Student caring for newborn manikin

Jaime has used her first project to familiarize nursing students with hospital environments. She is developing an entire series of virtual tours of real-life hospital rooms such as ER, ICU, and general patient accommodations. She is working on a model of virtual tours that will give students the opportunity to experience and familiarize themselves with hospital settings even if they are hundreds of miles away. I am just the humble editor of her vision, so I can’t reveal much, but what I can guarantee is that you too can experience the miracle of manikin birth right from the comfort of your own VR headset in the near future.


Work Cited:

Nagal, David. “Education, Gaming Drive Virtual Reality Gear” Educase, Accessed 16 October, 2017.


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