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Keywords:

  • digital;
  • microscopy;
  • pathology;
  • rural;
  • teaching;
  • undergraduate

Abstract

Introduction: Technology has revolutionised teaching. Teaching pathology via digital microscopy (DM) is needed to overcome increasing student numbers, a shortage of pathology academics in regional medical schools, and difficulties with teaching students on rural clinical placement.

Objective: To identify whether an online DM approach, combining digital pathology software, Web-based slides and classroom management software, delivers effective, practical pathology teaching sessions to medical students located both on campus and on rural placement.

Methods: An online survey collected feedback from fourth and fifth year undergraduate James Cook University medical students on the importance of 16 listed benefits and challenges of using online DM to teach pathology, via a structured five-point Likert survey.

Results: Fifty-three students returned the survey (response rate = 33%). Benefits of online DM to teach pathology rated as ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’ by over 50% of students included: higher quality images; faster learning; more convenient; better technology; everyone sees the same image; greater accessibility; helpful annotations on slides; cost savings; and more opportunity for self-paced learning out-of-hours and for collaborative learning in class. Challenges of online DM rated as ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’ by over 50% of students included: Internet availability in more remote locations and potential problems using online technology during class.

Conclusions: Nearly all medical students welcomed learning pathology via online digital technology. DM should improve the quantity, quality, cost and accessibility of pathology teaching by regional medical schools, and has significant implications for the growing emphasis in Australia for decentralised medical education and rural clinical placements.