Background: Virtual Reality Environments (VRE) are simulated counterparts of a real world that can help users experience situations that would normally be difficult in the real world to gain practical knowledge and experience in a simulated environment.
Objectives: The objective of this Cochrane review is to assess the effectiveness of VRE-based eLearning for pre- and post-registration healthcare professionals (HCPs) in terms of their knowledge, skills, attitude gain and satisfaction.
Methods: Seven databases were searched for studies on eLearning from 1990 to August 2016.
Results: The search strategy yielded 25 739 records and 41 RCTs with 2700 participants were included. The interventions tested in studies consist of three dimensional (3D) VREs displayed on a computer screen, 3D digital anatomy models, virtual reality clinics, rooms and head-mounted virtual reality displays. The interventions that these were compared to (the control interventions) were traditional classroom/textbook learning, 2D images and 3D VREs. Our findings suggest that certain subgroups of VRE (Virtual clinics/patients and 3D models) probably improved knowledge gain post-intervention for pre-registration healthcare professionals compared to traditional learning (face-to-face lecture, textbooks, paper-based learning, printed models, simulated patients and manikins) or using 2D-images (computer- and textbook-based learning).
Conclusions: Based on our preliminary findings, the effectiveness of VRE-based eLearning interventions in medical education is promising. However, the overall quality of evidence was low due to unknown risk of bias and inconsistency.