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University soap opera goes down under

John Freeman
An interactive ‘soap opera’ created by the University of Cumbria has become a worldwide hit.

A number of universities in the UK and abroad have bought into the online ‘drama’ which was created by University of Cumbria health and social care experts to educate a global audience.

A college and a university in Perth, Australia, and a technical college in Canada are now using the online programme, Stilwell, in their classrooms.

Stilwell is a web based virtual environment initially designed to support health and social care students and Continuous Professional Development at the University of Cumbria.

As the programme was so successful, it was rolled out to support training in organisations such as Cumbria Constabulary, the NHS and Cumbria County Council.

Real life scenarios are played out by real actors and the web based environment features video, audio, profiles, newspaper articles and background health and social reports.

Students use the situations to make informed decisions about the best treatment for the characters.

Dr. Mike Walsh, the creative director of Stilwell, has developed a variety of resources, incidents and scenarios that span a wide range of health and social issues from domestic abuse, mental health issues, child protection and long and short term health problems, all of which help students to deal with difficult topics.

Ian Corrie, Stilwell project manager for the University of Cumbria, has been involved in the development and commissioning of the project.  He said: “We started off by offering it out locally and it was used by both Cumbria Police and Cumbria County Council.  Now the appeal is reaching much wider as organisations look for interactive experiences for their staff or students.

“The best thing about Stilwell is that it allows the students to make decisions in a safe environment and they can learn from the decisions that they choose. This builds their confidence and experience for when they are faced with the real life situations in their career.”

• For more information and a video about Stilwell visit