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Enhancing Student Experiences with Virtual Dissection Labs

How computer-assisted instruction has lasting positive effects

August 20, 2018

BodyViz Interactive Virtual Anatomy Software

Anatomy educators at all levels are constantly evaluating their curriculum in order to improve the delivery of information to their students, the learning of that information and, ultimately, the ability to utilize that information in order to solve complex problems. Although course goals vary from institution to institution, and from class to class within institutions, several goals appear repeatedly in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) literature:

  • The acquisition of a complex technical vocabulary;
  • The ability to interpret, understand and utilize three-dimensional anatomical relationships to solve complex problems;
  • The learning and understanding of fundamental concepts, and the understanding of form and function

The continued questioning of the lecture form of teaching, and the emergence of virtual dissection software, have presented educators with yet another dilemma—determining not only what to teach but how to teach it. Studies have shown that, in order to be effective, the course curriculum (regardless of academic level) must shift instructional activities from those that emphasize teaching to those that emphasize learning and problem-solving skills. Ideally, all anatomy courses would involve cadaver dissection, as cadaver dissection plays an important role in understanding 3D spatial relationships, acquisition of practical dissection skills, touch-mediated perception, the appreciation of anatomical variability, and the appreciation of the ethical and moral issues arising from contact with cadavers. Computer-assisted instruction (CAI) also has characteristics and qualities that, when properly integrated into a curriculum, may be considered similar to many of those advantages conveyed to students by cadaver dissection.

BodyViz 3D Anatomy Software provides a mobile virtual cadaver lab for Idaho State University

Numerous studies at a variety of educational levels have indicated that CAI improves overall student learning and achievement in a wide range of medically related subjects. A study involving undergraduate Human Anatomy and Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) courses taught at multiple institutions by multiple instructors demonstrated a significantly greater improvement in students’ ability to visualize 3D structures and relationships in courses utilizing computer-assisted instruction as compared to those same courses taught utilizing only anatomical models in the laboratory. The results of that study, when correlated with others, demonstrates that a student’s ability to visualize 3D structures and relationships is an important predictor of success in learning anatomy. Similar studies have also demonstrated that computer-assisted instruction significantly increases the retention of material essential for the mastery of a skill as compared to traditional (non-CAI) instructional pedagogy. Overall, one may conclude that computer-assisted instruction with a program like BodyViz’s 3D anatomy software would significantly enhance your students’ understanding of 3D anatomical relationships and should significantly enhance your students’ abilities to remember and utilize important anatomical information of the human body as compared to traditional (non-CAI) instructional pedagogy.

Our team at BodyViz is here to help instructors and institutions bridge the gap between the future of anatomy instruction and where it sits today. While providing access to 3D visualizations of real human anatomy, BodyViz enables users to perform repeatable virtual dissections and explore anatomy on a deeper level, putting the power right into your students’ hands. Our users also report that unlike typical cadaver lab dissection, our interactive anatomy software can be utilized repeatedly throughout students’ careers as they navigate from gross anatomy classes and move into clinical practice. The result of our solutions enables institutions to make the shift of instructional activities from those that emphasize teaching to those that emphasize learning and problem-solving skills.

To learn more about BodyViz’s interactive anatomy software, schedule a demo at your earliest convenience.

Helpful Links:

Video: One-Minute BodyViz Introduction

Video: BodyViz Makes Complicated Anatomy Easy to Understand

Article: Virtual Dissection Software Investment and Budgeting

Case Study: Students at Providence Christian College Perform Virtual Dissections using Real Human Anatomy

References:

AAMC-HHMI. 2009. Association of American Medical Colleges—Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Report of the Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians (SFFP) Committee. Washington, DC: Association of American Medical Colleges. 43 p. URL: http://www.hhmi.org/grants/pdf/ 08-209_AAMCHHMI_report.pdf

Chiu, S-C, Cheng, K-Y, Sun, T-K, Chang, K-C, Tan, T-Y, Lin, T-K, Huang, Y-C, Chang, J-K, Yeh, S-H. 2009. The effectiveness of interactive computer assisted instruction compared to videotaped instruction for teaching nurses to assess neurological function of stroke patients: A randomized controlled trial. Int. J. Nurs Stud 46:1548-1556.

Cottam WW. 1999. Adequacy of medical school gross anatomy education as perceived by certain postgraduate residency programs and anatomy course directors. Clin Anat 12:55–65.

Estai M., Bunt S. 2016. Best teaching practices in anatomy education: A critical review. Annals Anat. 208:151-157.

Fernandez R, Dror IE, Smith C. 2011. Spatial abilities of expert clinical anatomists: comparison of abilities between novices, intermediates, and experts in anatomy. Anat Sci Educ 4:1–8.

Garg A, Normal, G, Eva, KW, Spero, L, Sharan, S. 2002. Is there any real virtue of virtual reality? The minor role of multiple orientations in learning anatomy from computers. Acad Med 77:S97-S99.

Merchant Z. et al. 2014. Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta analysis. Computers & Ed. 70:29-40.

Peterson DC, Mlynarczyk, GSA. 2016. Analysis of traditional versus three-dimensional augmented curriculum on anatomical learning outcome measures. Anat. Sci. Ed. 9:529-536.

Rizzolo, LJ. 2002. Human dissection: An approach to interweaving the traditional and humanistic goals of medical education. Anat Rec 269:242-248.

Rizzolo, LJ, Aden, M, Stewart, WB. 2002. Correlation of web usage and exam performance in a human anatomy and developmental course. Clin Anat 15:351-355.

Rizzolo LJ, Rando WC, O’Brien MK, Garino A, Stewart WB. 2011. Effectiveness of a shortened, clinically engaged anatomy course for physician assistant students. Anat Sci Educ 4:64–70.

Rizzolo LJ, Rando WC, O’Brien MK, Haims AH, Abrahams JJ, Stewart WB. 2010. Design, implementation, and evaluation of an innovative anatomy course. Anat Sci Educ 3:109–120.

Rizzolo LJ, Stewart WB, O’Brien M, Haims A, Rando W, Abrahams J, Dunne S, Wang S, Aden M. 2006. Design principles for developing an efficient clinical anatomy course. Med Teach 28:142–151.

Rouse, DP. 2007. Computer-assisted instruction: An effective instructional method. Teach Learn Nurs 2:138-143.

Tallitsch RB, Abdel-Malek K, Krippel J, Beck A, Croll P, Fenwick S, Kelley K, Peters B. (2011) The effects of computer-assisted instruction in teaching human anatomy: An experimental study. Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM: Making and Measuring Impacts. 2011 CCLI/TUES Principal Investigators (Pis) Conference, January 26-28, Washington DC.

Tallitsch RB, Abdel-Malek K, Krippel J, Beck A, Croll P, Fenwick S, Kelley K, Peters B. (2012) Computer-assisted instruction increased students’ ability to interpret 3D relationships and retain essential material in undergraduate human anatomy and A&P courses. Experimental Biology, April 21-25, San Diego CA.

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