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Evaluation of a virtual anatomy course for clinical undergraduates


J. A. Durham
Newcastle University
School of Dental Sciences Framlington Place Newcastle Upon-Tyne NE2 4BW
Tel: 0191 2227828
Fax: 0191 2226137


Aim:  To implement and evaluate a series of interactive clinically applied anatomy tutorials for final year dental undergraduate students.

Methods:  A 6-week voluntary virtual program of tutorials for final year dental undergraduates, with pre- and post-tutorial testing, was evaluated using a priority sequence model (QualQuan). A purposive sample (n = 15) was taken of the year group (n = 69) and the initial qualitative phase in depth interviews were carried out until data saturation (n = 13). The emergent recurrent themes from the qualitative data were then phrased into a variety of non-leading questions. These questions were issued in the form of an anonymous electronic questionnaire to the whole student body.

Results:  There was a good uptake of the tutorials with 84% of the students accessing at least one tutorial before sitting their final examinations. A response rate of 70% was achieved for the quantitative evaluative questionnaire phase of the study. Overall perceptions of the course were favourable although a number of modifications were suggested. These included a more concise presentation of the mainstream tutorial text with hyper links to more detailed content. Students also indicated a desire for more line diagrams. These changes, it was suggested, would help with the on-line readability of the tutorials. The primary focus for the students’ learning appeared to be provided by the pre- and post-tutorial tests even though explicit learning outcomes were provided for each tutorial.

Conclusion:  This study demonstrates that a well-designed virtual course can help to vertically integrate, and make clinically relevant, one of the basic sciences underpinning dental surgery. It has shown that formative assessment acts as a powerful tool to focus student attention and direct student learning. This leads to the conclusion that formative assessments have to be designed with as much care and attention as summative assessments.