A new tool to support interactive and collaborative education in histopathology

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 38: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World

July, 2015, 528 pages
Published by
T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser & R. Hadgraft

For the past century, the discipline of pathology has used microscopic images of diseased tissue to allow students in biomedicine to develop an understanding of disease and disease processes. Technological advances in digital display of these images is rapidly transforming this field, and demanding a re-evaluation of traditional pedagogy. The Biomedical Skills and Education (BEST) Network, a collaborative group of university academics, has developed Slice, an annotation tool and image repository that enables students working individually to interact with digital histology slides and share annotations to facilitate discussion.

We evaluated aspects of Slice as part of the Rational Use of Investigations course (RUI) at UNSW Australia. RUI is an elective for senior medical students that develops skills in the use and interpretation of medical investigations. A cohort of 16 students enrolled in the RUI course were divided into two groups, that undertook a traditional multi-header microscope teaching session or a lesson using the Slice online annotation tool. At two points during the course, both groups were given a 10-minute formative assessment. Results indicated that the group who had completed the Slice lesson performed better in recognising morphological features relevant to diagnosis. These results are supported by the finding that all students wanted more virtual annotation tools to aid histopathology learning and agreed that Slice allowed collaboration with peers and educators. This small study indicates that online tools that engage students through peer and teacher collaboration in class can improve student learning outcomes in histopathology.

Keywords: Histopathology, Online Learning, Biomedical Education