If a midwife can\u2019t identify the position of the placenta and lets the woman go into natural labour with the baby obstructed, the baby\u2019s life is at serious risk.\n\u201cAt the moment we teach with dolls and pelvises, and I can tell you firsthand from being a student as well as an educator, the position of the placenta is one of the hardest things to learn, and yet it\u2019s absolutely one of the most imperative things to know,\u201d says University of Newcastle lecturer in midwifery Donovan Jones.\nSince earlier this year, students now have a new tool to help them understand the issue and learn how to deal with it.\nRoad to Birth is a virtual reality app which takes users on \u201ca journey through pregnancy\u201d, depicting a life-size female figure, whose gestation can be explored and observed, including crucial birth considerations like the baby\u2019s orientation and placental positioning.\nIt is one of six immersive technology solutions for the university\u2019s Faculty of Health and Medicine which has been developed and implemented over the last 18 months by the University of Newcastle IT Services team in close collaboration with educators.\nThe benefits of the tools are multitude.\n\u201cSimulation labs typically comprise of a physical lab space set-up to mirror a typical birthing suite of a hospital, with an attached control room to manage scenarios, using rubber sim-babies and a variety of medical equipment. These labs are timetabled at specific times of the semester around resourcing and are expensive to set-up and run and are limited by practitioner availability,\u201d explains University of Newcastle chief information officer Anthony Molinia.\nNow students benefit from \u201canytime\/anywhere access\u201d to the learning tools, which they can use to practice as many times as is required. That\u2019s particularly useful given the relatively high levels of students from low socio-economic backgrounds who often have to work during lab hours.\nThere\u2019s also the opportunity for the immersive experiences to be gamified to improve learning outcomes.\n\u201cThere was also an unexpected emotional reaction at times to the VR simulations. This provided the teaching staff more effective and deeper insights \u2013 which can be utilised to help better emotionally prepare the students for the real world scenarios,\u201d Molinia adds.\nThere have been knock-on effects too, such as a shift in thinking around the reliance on complicated timetabling given so much learning at the university happens out of hours and off campus. The roll-out has also generated commercial interest in the unique proposition.\nListen and collaborate\nThe immersive technology projects were undertaken with close collaboration between the faculty, students and IT, utilising human centred design and lean canvas techniques.\n\u201cThis in itself was challenging given the need to focus on outcomes in a \u2018time and cost box\u2019 as well as taking an iterative approach to solution development...It led to standing up a bespoke \u2018innovation space\u2019 for open collaboration, design thinking and iterative testing and development,\u201d Molinia explains.\nThe closer collaboration between IT and stakeholders is borne out of Molinia\u2019s work over the last 24 months to \u201cgain trust\u201d from faculties and the university\u2019s leadership team.\nMolinia went on a \u2018listening tour\u2019 soon after joining the university \u201cto understand what was working well, what wasn\u2019t working well and what their key imperatives were for the future,\u201d he says.\n \nThat listening continues today in the form of an IT Performance Dashboard which includes customer sentiment, and a \u2018360 degree feedback channel\u2019.\n\u201cIn combination these actions increased our presence in the organisation, facilitated IT being included \u2018at the table\u2019 and provided us with the ability to have a voice from the ranks through to the leaders,\u201d Molinia says, adding that the result is a roughly 40 per cent increase in IT investment over the next seven years.\nAnd as the IT function has evolved into a trusted advisor and strategic partner to the university, within it has become more \u201ccohesive and effective\u201d department with a \u201cpositive, inclusive and fun culture\u201d.\nKeep your balance\nMolinia says that the biggest lesson he has learned over his career as a CIO is to maintain balance and perspective.\n\u201cThat is balance and perspective across everything, whether it be attention to innovation verses commodity; work verses fun; asking for permission verses asking for forgiveness; picking your battles verses fighting every one; or taking time to reflect and think verses trying to go too fast,\u201d he says.\n\u201cIt has provided me with an empathy and self-awareness that I believe is critical to be a good leader, motivator and mobiliser or innovation,\u201d he adds.