If You're Like Me, You Never Envisioned Teaching Anatomy Online

by Robert Tallitsch, PhD | April 14, 2020

Prior to this semester, distance learning and online teaching were both options for students and educators. However, under the current conditions and the mandated self-isolation practices in place, everything has changed. Students and instructors who never had a desire to teach or learn online are now mandated to do just that. And, since the start of self-isolation, one of the most common discussion topics on the various teaching listservs I’m involved with is this: “How should I teach my anatomy courses online when access to dissection labs are not available?”

Instructors are now having to evaluate new tools that will enable them to effectively teach anatomy online and ensure their students are comprehending 3D anatomical relationships and structures. So…let’s talk about how anatomy educators can quickly and efficiently transition their anatomy courses and dissection labs to an online learning environment, while providing the same level of interaction and engagement with real human anatomy.

Replacing Cadaver Lab Experiences

As anatomy educators, eliminating the ability to provide our students with hands-on cadaver lab experiences is certainly a hard pill to swallow. Every anatomist and student would agree that, while cadaver dissection is the best way to learn anatomy, it is just one of many tools that can be used to teach and learn human anatomy. However, in the current circumstances, cadaver dissection as we are accustomed to is impossible to perform. That said, instructors and students are still able to dissect the human body and study real anatomy in 3D through virtual anatomy applications. BodyViz anatomy software provides hands-on virtual dissection experiences for both instructors and students in any learning environment. With BodyViz, each individual student will download their own virtual dissection software onto laptops, PCs, or Macs. Students will use BodyViz to virtually dissect, peel away layers, and explore real 3D human anatomy just as they would in the cadaver lab. BodyViz renders actual human anatomy into 100% accurate 3D volumes that students can utilize to visualize anatomical concepts that are often confusing and difficult, such as the 3D relationships between organs, anatomical variations, and pathologies. 

Students studying foot anatomy with BodyViz software

Updating Existing Instructional Material

Many educators are still utilizing lecture resources that have been tailored to their traditional anatomy curriculum, most of which consist of 2D images and screenshots from textbooks. While effective in the traditional curriculum, these resources, when utilized in conjunction with online learning environments, make it challenging for students to comprehend and visualize 3D anatomical concepts. Without face-to-face interaction between educators and peers, students often find it difficult to stay engaged during lecture sessions, understand new course material being presented to them, and maintain a positive outlook on the course itself. To help educators facilitate an online learning environment that promotes engagement, comprehension, and enthusiasm, BodyViz provides anatomy instructors with advanced anatomy software features that enable them to create interactive lectures and dissection lab activities for students. Equipped with an easy-to-use content creation tool, instructors can:

  • Perform 3D virtual dissections of real human anatomy during lectures 
  • Produce videos and images demonstrating anatomical concepts in 3D for instructional use
  • Develop interactive activities with BodyViz Anatomy software for students to complete as homework

Providing Students with Clear Direction

As much as this has shaken up our world as instructors, a majority of our students have stepped into a completely new learning environment as well. For anatomy students transitioning into clinical rotations or the workplace, taking away their ability to perform on a physical cadaver before setting foot in their new role can be daunting. Even for students in high school biology courses, a massive shift in their educational setting can have a significant impact on the clarity of what is expected of them as students in your courses. While we’re doing our best as instructors to find alternative resources to teach online, it’s critical to have educational resources readily available for students if a situation, such as the one we’re experiencing now, arises. To help instructors provide clear direction for their students, BodyViz is delivered with a comprehensive set of ready-to-use interactive anatomy content modules that integrate directly within your learning management system. The content modules consist of interactive activities and self-assessment quizzes accompanied with step-by-step directions to help provide students with clarity for what is expected of them in each class session.

Student Studying 3D Anatomy with BodyViz

Adapting to Future Learning Environment Shifts

As the majority of instructors were not preparing to teach anatomy online this year, it’s important to note how quickly the anatomy classroom as we know it can change. While we hope an event of this magnitude, or any disruption of our educational systems for that matter, never happens again, it’s our responsibility as instructors to ensure that we’re able to adapt to these changes quickly and continue to provide accurate, engaging course material for our students.

To learn more about how BodyViz can help you teach anatomy effectively in both physical and online learning environments, schedule a demo with their solutions consultants using the button below.

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