Anatomy Education Contingency Planning for Fall 2020

by Robert Tallitsch, PhD | July 10, 2020

As I mentioned back in April, no one imagined that, in the middle of the spring semester, the CoVid-19 pandemic would emerge and force the closure of schools nationwide and, as a result, faculty would be teaching anatomy online for the remainder of the semester. Now colleges and universities are facing decisions regarding reopening in the fall and how classes will be taught. Will classes be face-to-face, totally online, or some hybrid combination of the two?

Faced with this uncertainty, anatomy faculty are forced to once again contemplate and plan for the worst-case scenario and search for teaching pedagogies and tools that can duplicate the in-person cadaver lab experiences in an online laboratory experience as closely as possible. Faculty are asking themselves, "How can I ensure that my students will be able to accomplish learning objectives through an online and/or a hybrid anatomical learning experience?" So...let's talk about what is required of students in order to master anatomical learning objectives and what resources are available to help instructors guide students to achieving those learning objectives.

Although learning objectives vary from course to course, three overarching goals are common in most, if not all, anatomy courses:

  • Students must learn a very complicated vocabulary. Without learning this new vocabulary students cannot truly master human anatomy. Viewing real anatomy truly brings this new vocabulary to a better level of understanding. Seeing a real cecum of the large intestine enables one to truly understand what a “blind-ended pouch” is, just as seeing how the real views of various thoracic structures change when the thorax is cut via a transverse, sagittal or coronal plane.
  • Once the basics of the subject manner are learned, students need to develop and visualize 3-dimensional anatomical relationships in order to truly know and understand anatomy. For instance, knowing the anatomy of the kidney and where it is located within the abdomen is important — yet knowing what abdominal organs or segments of organs are found in contact with, or in close proximity to the kidney is taking this knowledge to a totally different level. Likewise, knowing the location of the flexor carpi ulnaris, its origins, insertions and actions is not the same depth of knowledge as manipulating the real anatomy of the forearm in order to know those facts and what other muscles of the forearm would be found superficial to, deep to, medial or lateral to this muscle.
  • Finally, students need to develop the ability to utilize anatomical information covered in lecture and laboratory in order to solve complex clinical problems. Higher-order thinking skills (according to Bloom), which involve deep knowledge of a subject, are exemplified by a student’s ability to apply information in the solution of increasingly complex problems. Knowing which muscle or muscle group is the major extensor of the thigh demonstrates knowledge of the subject. However, being able to solve a problem such as “A 65-year old male has difficulty rising from a seated position and straightening his trunk. He has no difficulty flexing his leg. Which muscle or muscle group is most likely injured?” clearly demonstrates the ability to utilize higher-order thinking skills in his/her understanding of anatomy. This ability to utilize higher-order thinking skills is enhanced through the viewing and manipulation of real human anatomy.

Instructors are now having to evaluate new tools that will enable them to effectively teach anatomy online and plan for future contingencies. So…let’s talk about how anatomy educators can quickly and efficiently transition their anatomy courses and dissection labs into an online or hybrid laboratory experience while providing the same level of interaction and engagement with real human anatomy.

As the advancements of 3D anatomy technologies continue to develop, the online interaction and engagement with human anatomy that students experience is proving increasingly effective in regard to helping them master the anatomical learning objectives referenced above. While 3D anatomy software cannot fully replicate experiences gained in the cadaver lab, increasing students' exposure to virtual dissections of real human anatomy helps students visualize the 3D relationships between anatomical structures, which, as many of you have experienced, is oftentimes a bottleneck in helping students master anatomy.

The BodyViz Online Anatomy Lab was developed specifically to support anatomy instructors in the transition to online and/or hybrid learning environments during these uncertain times. Unlike many of the anatomy software packages on the market today, BodyViz renders real patient data into 3D volumes, allowing students to virtually dissect, study, and visualize real 3D human anatomy from any location directly on their computer. By providing personalized, virtual dissection experiences with real human anatomy, BodyViz helps students learn the complicated anatomical vocabulary, visualize 3D anatomical relationships, and utilize the information covered in lecture and laboratory in order to solve basic and complex anatomical problems.

For anatomy instructors with the uncertainty of when courses will transition back the traditional, face-to-face instruction, a single investment in BodyViz can ensure you're prepared to provide your students with consistent, high-quality anatomy education regardless of the impact from online or hybrid learning environments.

Schedule a Demo

To learn more about how BodyViz can help ensure you're prepared for the upcoming semester, regardless of the instructional format you'll be teaching in, schedule a demo with the BodyViz Team today using the link above.

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