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Keywords:

  • microscopic anatomy education;
  • histology education;
  • e-learning;
  • computer-aided instruction;
  • undergraduate medical education;
  • virtual microscopy;
  • digital morphology;
  • assessment;
  • educational methodology;
  • medical laboratory science

This article describes the introduction of a virtual microscope (VM) that has allowed preclinical histology teaching to be fashioned to better suit the needs of approximately 900 undergraduate students per year studying medicine, dentistry, or veterinary science at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom. Features of the VM implementation include: (1) the facility for students and teachers to make annotations on the digital slides; (2) in-house development of VM-based quizzes that are used for both formative and summative assessments; (3) archiving of teaching materials generated each year, enabling students to access their personalized learning resources throughout their programs; and (4) retention of light microscopy capability alongside the VM. Student feedback on the VM is particularly positive about its ease of use, the value of the annotation tool, the quizzes, and the accessibility of all components off-campus. Analysis of login data indicates considerable, although variable, use of the VM by students outside timetabled teaching. The median number of annual logins per student account for every course exceeded the number of timetabled histology classes for that course (1.6–3.5 times). The total number of annual student logins across all cohorts increased from approximately 9,000 in the year 2007–2008 to 22,000 in the year 2010–2011. The implementation of the VM has improved teaching and learning in practical classes within the histology laboratory and facilitated consolidation and revision of material outside the laboratory. Discussion is provided of some novel strategies that capitalize on the benefits of introducing a VM, as well as strategies adopted to overcome some potential challenges. Anat Sci Educ 7: 389–398. © 2013 American Association of Anatomists.