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Keywords:

  • histology education;
  • technology adoption;
  • virtual microscopy;
  • teaching of histology;
  • computer-supported learning;
  • medical education

Abstract

The adoption of virtual microscopy at the University of Turku, Finland, created a unique real-world laboratory for exploring ways of reforming the learning environment. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the students' reactions and the impact of a set of measures designed to boost an experimental group's understanding of abnormal histology through an emphasis on knowledge of normal cells and tissues. The set of measures included (1) digital resources to review normal structures and an entrance examination for enforcement, (2) digital course slides highlighting normal and abnormal tissues, and (3) self-diagnostic quizzes. The performance of historical controls was used as a baseline, as previous students had never been exposed to the above-mentioned measures. The students' understanding of normal histology was assessed in the beginning of the module to determine the impact of the first set of measures, whereas that of abnormal histology was assessed at the end of the module to determine the impact of the whole set of measures. The students' reactions to the instructional measures were assessed by course evaluation data. Additionally, four students were interviewed. Results confirmed that the experimental group significantly outperformed the historical controls in understanding normal histology. The students held favorable opinions on the idea of emphasizing normal structures. However, with regards to abnormal histology, the historical controls outperformed the experimental group. In conclusion, allowing students access to high-quality digitized materials and boosting prerequisite skills are clearly not sufficient to boost final competence. Instead, the solution may lie in making students externally accountable for their learning throughout their training. Anat Sci Educ 6: 73–80. © 2012 American Association of Anatomists.