Managing humanitarian emergencies: Teaching and learning with a virtual humanitarian disaster tool

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The importance of specialist intervention in the form of humanitarian aid from governments, NGOs and other aid agencies during a humanitarian emergency cannot be over-emphasised. Humanitarian aid is the assistance provided in response to a humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian aid may be logistical, financial or material and its central aim is to alleviate human suffering and save lives. This paper describes an inter-disciplinary project that created the Virtual Humanitarian Disaster learning and teaching resource (VHD) that is centred on the events occurring in the aftermath of an earthquake. To facilitate learning, scenarios with integrated task dilemmas have been modelled which will provide the opportunity for users of the resource to explore the inter-relationships between the key areas of activities which are important to the NGOs and other bodies which deliver humanitarian aid. Such areas include geo-political relationships, legal and regulatory requirements, information management, logistic, financial and human resource management imperatives. The VHD is primarily aimed at students. It creates a more flexible learning and teaching environment when compared with traditional classroom methods. The resource enables students to make decisions concerning critical situations within the controlled environment of a virtual world, where the consequences of any wrong decisions, will not directly impact on lives and property. The VHD has been embedded within an undergraduate module of the School of Management as it specifically relates to the final thematic area within which the module engages, namely the strategic and operational challenges faced by NGOs operating in the “humanitarian relief industry”. We demonstrate that virtual worlds can be used to enhance learning and make it more engaging. The VHD affords students the opportunity to explore given scenarios in accordance with a specified budget and in so doing, they realise module outcomes in a more active and authentic learning environment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCSEDU 2012
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 4th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
EditorsMarkus Helfert, Maria Joao Martins, Jose Cordeiro
ISBN (Print)978-989-8565-06-8
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Virtual Worlds
  • Humanitarian Emergencies
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Scenario-Based Training


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