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Computer visualizations: Factors that influence spatial anatomy comprehension

Authors

  • Ngan Nguyen,

    1. Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Corps for Research of Instructional and Perceptual Technologies (CRIPT), Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
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  • Andrew J. Nelson,

    1. Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Science, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
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  • Timothy D. Wilson

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Corps for Research of Instructional and Perceptual Technologies (CRIPT), Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
    • Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Medical Science Building 490, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A 5C1, Canada
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Abstract

Computer visualizations are increasingly common in education across a range of subject disciplines, including anatomy. Despite optimism about their educational potential, students sometime have difficulty learning from these visualizations. The purpose of this study was to explore a range of factors that influence spatial anatomy comprehension before and after instruction with different computer visualizations. Three major factors were considered: (1) visualization ability (VZ) of learners, (2) dynamism of the visual display, and (3) interactivity of the system. Participants (N = 60) of differing VZs (high, low) studied a group of anatomical structures in one of three visual conditions (control, static, dynamic) and one of two interactive conditions (interactive, non-interactive). Before and after the study phase, participants' comprehension of spatial anatomical information was assessed using a multiple-choice spatial anatomy task (SAT) involving the mental rotation of the anatomical structures, identification of the structures in 2D cross-sections, and localization of planes corresponding to given cross-sections. Results indicate that VZ had a positive influence on SAT performance but instruction with different computer visualizations could modulate the effect of VZ on task performance. Anat Sci Educ. © 2012 American Association of Anatomists.

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