11 August 2021

New Streaming Formats of Video-Based Simulation

Marlon Schuhfleck
Marlon Schuhfleck
Communications Manager

Inevitable circumstances accompanying COVID-19 such as lockdown, quarantine and social distancing had a serious impact on our understanding and the possibilities of cooperation, communication, and education. Not least, these are also central factors that define the potential and the scope of video-based simulation training. An effective approach to many of the social challenges associated with the pandemic has been and continues to be the progressive digitalization of information and the expansion of related online channels. Does this approach also provide a valid way for video-based simulation to continue with "conventional business"?

Professional simulation training and information transfer go closely together. On the one hand, the targeted linking of information from the defined system levels - briefing, simulation, control, and debriefing - is per se a basic prerequisite for the success of simulation training. On the other hand, without the channels of a systematic data distribution, this benefit remains a purely singular, non-reproducible one. Only data processing, specific preparation and dissemination of the information can lead to a wider practical added value and fulfil the intended goals: regulated training and education opportunities and thus long-term assurance/increase of quality standards.

In this way, professional simulation training reveals itself as a complex network of information; a network with great demands in terms of the sheer quantity, the variety of formats as well as the transmission quality and speed of the information transported. The extensive amounts of data must be accessible in real time, comprehensibly processed, measurable and shareable. These essential criteria illustrate the great advantage of AV systems in professional simulation training. AV system solutions that run video-based can support such complex information networks in a meaningful way - and at the same time almost disappear in the scenic background despite their functional presence.

COVID-19: The Accelerator of Digitalization

Complementary to the scenic background characteristics of AV systems, one thing came to the foreground for all of us in the last 18 months: the pandemic. COVID-19 affected and still affects all social, political, and economic areas. The field of medical simulation training is no exception; on the contrary, its location in the medical sector brought precarious consequences. Pre-clinical in-situ simulation in times of lockdown, significant risk of infection and hopelessly overcrowded health institutions? No way. And yet, through its inherent possibilities of skills training, communication and process optimization, professional simulation naturally plays a key role: especially in times when the global health system is reaching its personnel, structural and economic limits; when practice-oriented simulation training can make a vital difference for patients, but also for medical staff and relatives, etc. But how can video-based simulation training fulfil this role?

Apart from anything else, COVID-19 was also known to be an accelerator of digitalization. This is also important for the field of video-based simulation training - especially in view of the close intertwining of simulation success and information transfer. The enforced digitalization of information and communication channels established new forms of (spatially distanced) cooperation and exchange. Does this in principle favor the field of video-based simulation? One is tempted to answer this question in the affirmative. And yet the answer is "no." The "yes" only reveals itself in a roundabout way.

Let us start with the "no". Despite the benefits of digitalization, the pandemic and its impact made "conventional" forms of video-based simulation - such as pre-clinical, or clinical in-situ simulation - more difficult. Why? Because classic simulation setups depend on specific factors:

  • simulation/debriefing as training in the real working environment
  • simulation/debriefing as a training ground for practical exercise
  • simulation/debriefing as a place of direct human interaction
  • simulation/debriefing as a private, safe place for participants

These factors of a "conventional" video-based simulation training cannot simply be transferred to the digital domain. In fact, a 1-to-1 transfer to the online area runs counter to these very premises. What is needed instead are new ways and formats of processing/distributing information to be able to draw knowledge and added value from simulation training even under these difficult conditions. We are thus approaching the "yes". We are looking at new possibilities and opportunities: at new forms and formats of video-based simulation.

The Need for New Simulation Formats

The great need and urgency for new (learning) formats of video-based simulation was obvious in 2020. Academic operations and the associated educational task had to be maintained under difficult circumstances. Medical institutions were looking for safe forms of training, research and education for staff and students, and finally, economic development and many jobs had to be secured.

The urgency to find innovative solutions not only became clear in numerous discussions, meetings and online sessions with our customers and distributors, but was also expressed in numerous papers and publications from the medical industry. An illustrative example of the associated potential of video-based simulation systems is a paper by Peter Dieckmann [Peter Dieckmann et al.: The use of simulation to prepare and improve responses to infectious disease outbreaks like COVID-19: practical tips and resources from Norway, Denmark, and the UK. - In: Advances in Simulation. 2020; accessed: 15.07.2021].

This paper is remarkable in many respects. In addition to the central medical question of how the systematic use of simulation methods can make a valuable contribution to dealing with the pandemic, it raises concrete questions about the modified use of simulation systems. For example, in Table 2 we find the specific, very practice-oriented pairing of the terms "simulation/education modality", "target group" and "(learning) goal". In our specific context, we reformulate this constellation of terms as a question: Which target group can I reach with which format for the purpose of a concrete learning goal?

Thankfully, the pragmatic approach of the paper also provides numerous impulses for solving this question. Various formats - combined with learning objectives - are listed: E-learning, case discussions, lectures, pre-recorded remote lectures, skills training, teaching videos, demonstrations, checklists, walkthroughs of rooms, mockups, etc. In this respect, the paper shows itself to be a prescriptive, impressively versatile catalogue for conceivable utilization formats of video-based simulation.

Streaming: The Channel for New Formats

Even though we as a service provider are constantly working on the strategic online integration of the SIMStation systems - e.g., possibilities for online training of customers, online support, and maintenance via remote access (exciting aspects that we will present to you in more detail in future blog posts) - the above-mentioned paper with its numerous impulses inspired us to think further and develop our services. In particular, the question of which formats can be sensibly realized and used in which context via online streaming channels proved to be extremely productive.

So what formats are conceivable under the circumstances and how can they be realized quickly and easily? And how do you realize an implementation with the means at your disposal? The answer to these questions was as simple as it was convincing: with the SIMStation systems themselves. Let us go back a step to explain. All the formats mentioned above (E-learning, lectures, demonstrations, etc.) can be understood as media content that can be shared. To be more precise: multimedia AV formats perfectly suited for online streaming. And this is precisely one of the core competences of SIMStation systems: the recording, editing and of transmission of audiovisual content. Best prerequisites for developing new formats and sharing them via stream. Both the hardware (cameras, microphones, loudspeakers, etc.) and the software functions are precisely designed for this purpose. All that is needed for streaming is a simple system adaptation of the hardware and software - which can be implemented fast and cost-effectively.

Our approach to new simulation formats via online streaming takes place in 3 steps: 

  1. Define the format. Decide which format is the most promising in view of the target groups and learning objectives. For example, theoretical issues can be better communicated in a lecture/online seminar than with checklists and tables. To demonstrate practical skills, a demonstrative tutorial or a recording from the archive is an excellent choice.
  2. Set up your own film studio with your AV system and SIMStation Software. The SIMStation system provides you with all the hardware components such as cameras and microphones for video/audio production and the functional software package for editing options. The AV equipment with numerous application possibilities is ready and waiting. Use it.
  3. The next step is to distribute your defined and produced content. Therefore you need suitable communication channels that are perfectly tailored to your target group. The easiest way: connect your SIMStation system to a streaming PC.

Notes on Implementation

When using streaming formats, certain preliminary considerations are of immense importance. In addition to the question of the format, the target group (size of the target group, technical equipment, digital affinity, etc.) and the form of reception (classic sender-receiver constellation, interactive possibilities, participatory involvement) must be clearly defined. Essential issues such as data protection and privacy play a decisive role here and must always be taken into consideration.

It is also important to clarify the demands on the transmission (transmission quality, live transmission or recordings, multimedia content, etc.) in advance and to select the appropriate streaming platform based on this. The selection of the platform is of course influenced by the use and availability to the intended target group ... The interplay of all these content-related, communicative, and technical aspects thus determines the concrete streaming setup to achieve the best possible results with the online stream.

The technical structure of the streaming extension requires adaptation to the respective SIMStation system: individual system solutions demand individual extensions. However, the basic principle - the connection of the system to a streaming PC by means of a video grabber and software interfaces - is always the same. Detailed instructions and concrete examples will follow soon in a separate blog post by my colleague Andreas.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the SIMStation systems not only provide the basic possibilities, but also the technical means to discover and strategically use new application forms of video-based simulation: new learning formats, new interaction options, new communication channels. With this potential, these innovative formats are part of the ongoing development of our company. They reveal themselves as an essential component of The All New SIMStation.

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