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Scottsdale Community College Case Study

See how West's Virtual Learning Environment helped Scottsdale Community College improve nurses' education

Nursing school improves learning quality, increases its capacity, and offers 24/365 access to accommodate busy student schedules.


The key to reducing medical errors, nursing educator Janine E. Hinton believes, is more hands-on practice in training nurses and other medical professionals. In 2013, her institution, Scottsdale Community College, opened a new $4.25 million nursing education building full of high-tech simulation equipment where 300 nursing students learn and practice on 3-D dummies with pulses and heartbeats.

With a 10-bed lab and five birthing, cardiac and pediatrics simulation rooms, the facility was almost instantly used to capacity, running 14 hours a day, six days a week, with talk of adding a seventh. So intense is the usage that simulation machines overheat periodically and shut down.

“We ran out of time and space,” says Hinton, clinical simulations coordinator in the community college’s nursing program. “Students want more and more.”

Despite a spiffy new facility, students still need hands-on experience with live patients. Hinton struggles to place enough students in clinical settings in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area. Worried about patient safety, clinics increasingly limit the procedures student nurses may perform. There’s also competition, dubbed “nursing wars,” for spots in medical facilities among nine or more nursing programs in the Valley of the Sun.

The bottom line: With limited real-world opportunities and maxed-out campus simulation labs, students found too few chances to master skills.


To expand opportunities for hands-on learning, the Scottsdale nursing program created Virtual Sim Lab, a new virtual learning environment that students can access online from anywhere.

Virtual Sim Lab is organized into 10 SimSpaces where faculty organized demonstration videos, policies and procedures for nursing interventions, and simulated patient cases. The 10 SimSpaces range from fundamental nursing skills to “deteriorating patients” to labor and delivery, pediatrics, surgery and emergency room.

“This gets back to clinical judgments, to assessing the patient and pulling from best practices not only to know which interventions to use but how to do them in the best way. What is the assessment that needs to be done? What do they need to attend to?” says Hinton.

SimSpace content including video is produced by the college’s 18 staffers and 34 adjunct faculty members as well as syndicated material from similar online medical education initiatives. Those include Boston Childrens Hospital and Shadow Health, a simulation/gaming product that provides learners with increasing levels of challenges, feedback, and 3D demonstrations of things like heart function and sounds.

“SimSpaces offer one-to-one learning experiences at the learner’s pace,” says Hinton. “With SimSpaces, students can review content and resources as questions arise, and use chat and conferencing tools to fill in information gaps to deepen their understanding through interaction with peers and experts.”

“SimSpaces direct learners to particular portions of Shadow Health that are associated with content in the various SimSpaces,” Hinton says.

Just as Virtual Sim Lab utilizes “fantastic” pediatrics content from Boston Childrens Hospital, so is Virtual Sim Lab publicly available online to anyone in or outside the Scottsdale Community College nursing program.

The infrastructure for storing and orchestrating Virtual Sim Lab content is handled by the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) from West Unified Communications Services, the leader in virtual training solutions. West’s VLE not only gives students 24/7 access to content, but it also helps shift the learning environment from large group lectures to small groups or just one person.

West VLE acts as a front-end or portal for all the nursing department’s learning assets. “It’s allowing us to really organize different batches of content,” Hinton explains. Nursing students can connect with other learners in an engaging, online environment with all the elements of in-person training. Social networking features complement chat, email, blogs, conferencing and discussion forums.

For students, the VLE boosts learning time, reduces time spent searching for the best resources, and prevents potential learning gaps, Hinton says.


Scottsdale Community College’s vision is to educate better nurses with trail-blazing technology to help reduce too-prevalent medical errors. Hinton views the West VLE as an important part of her solution.

“VLE will escalate and deepen learning that is needed to transfer to actual patient care,” says Hinton. The one-to-one, self-paced, expert-supported VLE presents learners with relevant concise content, challenges, simulations, feedback, and instantaneous robust demonstrations of healthcare concepts.


  • Shadow Health for interactive content
  • Boston Children’s Hospital’s OpenPediatrics content
  • Canvas learning management system for content creation
  • YouTube for video storage
  • InterCall’s Virtual Leaning Environment (VLE) to bring all that together.

“The VLE is the key to getting context tied to content. The emphasis on context is because nurses need to make judgments in a particular context.”

Dr. Janine Hinton, Clinical Simulations Coordinator for Nursing Scottsdale Community College

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