Laboratory instruction in histology at the University at Buffalo: Recent replacement of microscope exercises with computer applications



Histology is a morphologic science in which the structure of the cells, tissues, and organs of the body are examined with a microscope. In the laboratory courses in histology at the School of Medicine of the University at Buffalo, histologic specimens had been used since the late 19th century to teach the principles of cell, tissue, and organ structure. Students also had to learn how to analyze or “read” slides with a microscope. Learning histology in this way, i.e., by direct examination of actual specimens, is time consuming and viewed by some as unnecessary. As a result of recent curricular reform at the School of Medicine that reduced contact time in histology, half of all laboratory exercises that would have been performed with a microscope were performed instead with interactive computer applications. By replacing some microscope exercises with more efficient computer applications, the histology course accommodated curricular change by both reducing contact time and continuing to offer valuable microscope laboratories for most of the organ systems of the body. To provide a basis for comparing traditional microscope exercises with computer-assisted instruction in histology, the nature of the laboratory experience between 1846 and 1998 is briefly reviewed. The instructional strategy behind the use of computers is presented, along with the nature of the computer applications and the means by which the computer applications were incorporated into the school's laboratory course in histology. Anat Rec (New Anat) 265:212–221, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.