While agriculture, food & fibre is our passion, we also have a very big soft spot for health. We love and value our ongoing relationship with Connect ‘n’ Grow in Queensland – see the article below soon to be featured in the VR/AR Global Report in health.

Connect ‘n’ Grow was founded in Queensland, Australia in 2012 by Michael and Naomi Gleadow, with the mission to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by creating and delivering education in health.

In recognising the predicted shortages in healthcare professionals in coming years, they expanded to provide services into mainstream schools and businesses.

To support this expansion, inspire more people to consider a career pathway into health and to provide a point of difference in training for their students, Connect ‘n’ Grow began to explore using immersive technology and VR health training.

“We had been told about the work that Think Digital were doing in the agriculture sector, after hearing founder Tim Gentle present at an event,” said CEO Michael Gleadow. 

“We contacted (Think Digital Founder) Tim to talk about how this technology could be incorporated into the health industry, and a really exciting partnership began.”

As part of their charter to encourage regional and remote, as well as Indigenous students to consider the breadth of careers available in health, utilising 360° immersive film to take people into a hospital was the first area explored and delivered.

“We wanted to show students just how diverse a career in health can be and to have them feel like they’re really there, hearing first hand from the different health professionals,” said Michael.

“Given the size of the geographical area we cover and location of some of our students, sadly it’s just not practical to undertake work experience or for students to experience first hand the opportunities that exist in the industry, this was even before the added restrictions and challenges presented by Covid-19,” Michael added.

So if students can’t get to the hospital, Connect’n’Grow will take the hospital to them using VR health training!

“A Day in the Life of”  360° hospital experience was developed, where the student is invited to spend a day in the emergency room of the Mater Hospital in Townsville, following the progression of a patient and meeting and hearing from a range of different health experts. The student can then choose to deep dive into one of these areas, to hear more about what a career in this field entails – all delivered in 360°.

To support the experiences, Think Digital created a purpose built HealthConnectVR branded App to deliver and manage all the immersive content. Furthermore, 3 VR kits were built for the team to take the experiences on the road.

The feedback from Students was very positive, “woos, and wows” were common as the students beamed into the hospital.

Following the success of the 360 video experiences, Connect ‘n’ Grow CEO Michael wanted to push things further in the immersive educational space.

“I had discussed with the Think Digital team how incredible it would be to incorporate an interactive VR training environment into this delivery of the solution,” said Michael.

The result was the creation of two virtual environments based on the Mater Hospital Emergency Department, where students have to identify and put away medical equipment and identify and resolve OHS&W issues.

To streamline the student assessment workflow, the VR experiences were then integrated into Canvas, which Connect ‘n’ Grow uses as their Learning Management System. 

To provide greater accessibility, the experiences are now available on Web, Mobile and VR. To date, almost 2000 students have been immersed in the HealthConnectVR experiences.

“The students love it. The 360 experiences give them a real sense of what a career in health might entail, and the VR training provides practical and hands on interaction to support their learning,” said Michael.

Connect ‘n’ Grow continues to add to their collection of 360 experiences with training in areas such as needle stick injury, how to undertake a health assessment as well as hospital inductions.

“We are now in the beta phase with the student assessment integration with Canvas and we have secondary schools in Queensland incorporating the VR scenarios as part of their assessment.  

“Our aim is to build out more practical assessment in VR, so eventually students can complete 40% – 50% of their practical assessment for their entire qualification in a VR environment.  

“We believe this is a game changer in competency based education in Australia,” said Michael.