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Keywords:

  • constructivist pedagogy;
  • dental curriculum;
  • dental education;
  • e-learning;
  • electracy;
  • systemic pathology;
  • virtual microscopy

Abstract

Introduction:  The introduction of digital technologies into the dental curriculum is an ongoing feature of broader changes going on in tertiary education. This report examines the introduction of digital virtual microscopy technology into the curriculum of the School of Dentistry at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia.

Methods and materials:  Sixty students studying a course in pathology in 2005 were introduced to virtual microscopy technology alongside the more traditional light microscope and then asked to evaluate their own learning outcomes from this technology via a structured 5-point LIKART survey.

Results:  A wide variety of questions dealing the pedagogic implications of the introduction of virtual microscopy into pathology were asked of students with the overall result being that it positively enhanced their learning of pathology via digital microscopic means.

Discussion:  The success of virtual microscopy in dentistry at UQ is then discussed in the larger context of changes going on in tertiary education. In particular, the change from the print-literate tradition to the electronic one, that is from ‘literacy to electracy’. Virtual microscopy is designated as a component of this transformation to electracy.

Conclusion:  Whilst traditional microscopic skills may still be valued in dental curricula, the move to virtual microscopy and computer-assisted, student-centred learning of pathology appears to enhance the learning experience in relation to its effectiveness in helping students engage and interact with the course material.