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Virtual M.D.: e-Learning Tool for Improving Health Science Literacy

Award Information

Department of Health and Human Services
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2010 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
10437 W. INNOVATION DR., #400 WAUWATOSA, WI 53226-4838
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Woman-Owned: Yes
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 2
Fiscal Year: 2010
Title: Virtual M.D.: e-Learning Tool for Improving Health Science Literacy
Agency: HHS
Contract: 2R44RR025258-02
Award Amount: $850,475.00


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Only 28% of all Americans are considered scientifically literate [1], a distressing figure that leaves 72% of U.S. citizens ill-prepared to comprehend the substance of important issues such as stem cell research, global warming, or their own health-related conditions. Enhanced educational efforts are needed to improve the nation's scientific literacy and help more Americans keep pace with the rapidly evolving technological world. Terra Nova proposes to extend the success ful research and development of the Phase I prototype, to produce an engaging software program that will strengthen the health science literacy of middle school students. Utilizing highly interactive technologies and evidence-based content, the web-based V irtual M.D.: Medical Sleuths end-product program (developed for the Virtual M.D.: e-Learning Tool for Improving Health Science Literacy grant project) will be designed to stimulate the interest of today's middle school students through interactive instruct ion and a detective-type process for finding solutions to contemporary real-world problems. Taking on the persona of a virtual M.D. to study virtual patients represented by animated characters, students will apply the scientific method to analyze sig ns and symptoms to diagnose key human diseases relevant to adolescents. This engaging method of learning will promote an accurate understanding of several important diseases, improve scientific analytical and research skills, offer guidelines for healthy l iving, and inspire a greater interest in pursuing a healthcare or research career. The broad, long-term objective for Phase II is to completely develop and rigorously test the complete Virtual M.D.: Medical Sleuths interactive program for eventual dissemin ation to middle schools across the country. The Specific Aims to be met during Phase II are: AIM 1 - Expand the research and instructional design plan developed and validated in Phase I, for an interactive middle school software tool that will communicate health and scientific information about adolescent obesity, Type 1 diabetes, asthma, and HIV/AIDS; AIM 2 - Produce all program materials including the web-based virtual simulation, an online learning community, Career Highlight videos, assessment component s, and companion materials; and AIM 3 - Thoroughly evaluate all Phase II deliverables through quantitative, qualitative, and descriptive assessment measures including Expert Consultant Group reviews and a comprehensive Field Test Evaluation. Through the Vi rtual M.D. unit, Terra Nova seeks to support the National Center for Research Resources' public health mission of promoting scientific literacy among K-12 students through discovery-oriented tools, provide education to help people understand, detect, trea t, and prevent a wide range of diseases, and encourage lifelong interest in the field of science. The Phase II end-product program will both fill an unmet need in the middle school market, as well as contribute to NCRR's mission of providing an educationa l tool to improve the public's health science literacy. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: With only 28% of U.S. citizens qualifying as scientifically literate [1], national attention is sharply focused on identifying methods to improve Americans' understandi ng of and appreciation for key scientific concepts - so they may make better-informed decisions about the world around them. The proposed web-based Virtual M.D.: Medical Sleuths educational unit responds to this initiative by providing students at the midd le school level with a creative, interactive, detective-type process for finding scientific solutions to real-life health problems. By giving students the opportunity to serve in the role of a virtual M.D. to study, diagnose, and treat virtual patients, the unit will promote public health initiatives by: a) improving students' health science literacy, b) providing them with practical guidelines for preventing the onset of disease, c) familiarizing them with a variety of health-related career options, and d) further inspiring a lifelong curiosity about science and its applications.

Principal Investigator:

Catherine Bruss

Business Contact:
Small Business Information at Submission:


EIN/Tax ID: 103044243
Number of Employees: N/A
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No