Best Practices for Teaching Anatomy Online

August 10, 2020

Best Practices for Online Anatomy Education

As we approach the 2020 school year, institutions have been forced to make difficult decisions related to the reopening of traditional in-person instruction for the fall semester. Although this varies by region, and by the risk assessment levels provided within individual regions, studies have shown that roughly 60% of institutions plan to reopen in-person instruction this fall. However, what many of those studies fail to consider, is the number of institutions that will be forced to pivot back into an online learning format due to the expected spike in COVID-19 cases once institutions return to in-person instruction. In addition, there are educators that will be transitioning their individual courses into a fully online or hybrid learning format, regardless of the reopening statements provided by administration.  

So, let’s talk about some of the best practices anatomy educators should follow to ensure, not only the safety of their students and themselves, but the continued presentation of high-quality anatomical experiences in an online or hybrid learning format.

Create a Clear Course Path and Learning Objectives

For many students, the online learning format is a new and unique experience. To help them feel more comfortable in this environment, it is important to outline the individual learning objectives in a time-specific framework. This information should be presented to students at the beginning of the course and should be easily accessible by students throughout the semester. Although many instructors have already practiced this strategy in the past, it is now more important than ever to clearly present the course path and related learning objectives to students. Without providing this information, students may have trouble understanding what is expected of them and will struggle to fully immerse themselves in the course material.

Follow a Consistent Curriculum Plan

In the spirit of simplicity, it is vital to follow a consistent weekly agenda and utilize learning resources that students can easily adapt to. When transitioning into online learning formats, it can be tempting for instructors to shuffle between the number of online learning resources available. However, students will benefit most from online learning when the course resources are familiar and easy-to-follow, while still providing the necessary material to master the learning objectives at stake. This will help students get into a weekly routine and allows them to spend their time learning the course material, as opposed to learning how to use a new learning resource each week.

Create Meaning and Engagement with Course Material

It’s no secret that keeping students engaged in online lectures is difficult. One-way anatomy educators can create meaning and engagement with course material in an online setting is to incorporate real-world connections. Whether that is a case study directing students to diagnose a patient's’ symptoms, or showcasing a 3D representation of an injury and/or disease, real-world connections spark curiosity and help students realize that what they are learning about is useful beyond the classroom and workplace.

Let the Students Take Control

Although in-person cadaver lab experiences are impossible to create online, digital technologies today, such as 3D anatomy software, can mimic the hands-on dissection process in an online learning environment for students. While promoting exploration and experimental learning, 3D anatomy software allows students take control of their own learning experience and immerse themselves in human anatomy. In addition, instructors can facilitate group collaboration between students using Zoom Meetings, Google Hangouts, and other similar applications. Group collaboration sessions are an excellent way to engage your classroom when their face-to-face time with you (the instructor) and their peers is limited, while also helping promote discussion of course material amongst students.

The BodyViz Team understands that transitioning anatomy courses into an online learning environment can seem intimidating at first glance. Over the last 13 years, our team has helped hundreds of anatomy educators expand the learning and dissection experience outside of the traditional anatomy lab with our easy-to-use 3D Anatomy Learning Platform. We’re here to help ensure that you’re prepared to provide high-quality anatomical experiences for your students in a safe, online learning format. If you’re interested in learning more about our solutions, schedule an online demonstration with us today!