Humanitarian Training with Virtual Simulation during a Pandemic


Sean M. Kivlehan, Kathryne Tenney, Samuel Plasmati, Vincenzo Bollettino, Katie Farineau, Eric J. Nilles, Greg Gottlieb, and Stephanie R. Kayden. 5/2021. “Humanitarian Training with Virtual Simulation during a Pandemic.” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. Read Publication


There is an ongoing and established need for humanitarian training and professionalization. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted training programs designed to accomplish this goal, including the Humanitarian Response Intensive Course, which includes a three-day immersive simulation to prepare humanitarian workers for future field work. To provide program continuity, the three day simulation was quickly adapted to a virtual format using a combination of video conferencing, short messaging service, and cloud-based file storage software. Participants were geographically dispersed and participated virtually. Learning objectives were preserved while some components not amenable to a virtual format were removed.

A virtual humanitarian training simulation is a feasible, acceptable, and affordable alternative to an in-person simulation. Participants were engaged and experienced minimal technological disruptions. The majority of students felt the format met or exceeded expectations. However, feedback also emphasized the importance of providing sufficient time for team collaboration and deliverable preparation in the simulation schedule. The virtual format was more affordable than the traditional in-person simulation and diverse expert faculty who could not have attended in-person were able to participate. This format could be used to overcome other barriers to in-person simulation training, including geographic, financial, time, or security.