Virtual microscopy for learning and assessment in pathology

J Pathol. 2004 Dec;204(5):613-8. doi: 10.1002/path.1658.


Virtual slides are high-magnification digital images of tissue sections, stored in a multi-resolution file format. Using appropriate software, these slides can be viewed in a web browser in a manner that closely simulates examination of glass slides with a real microscope. We describe the successful implementation of teaching microscopic pathology with virtual slides and, for the first time, their use in summative assessment. Both students and teaching staff readily adapted to the use of virtual microscopy. Questionnaire feedback from students strongly indicated that virtual slides solved a number of problems in their learning, while providing good to excellent image quality. A deliberate policy of allocating two students per workstation promoted collaboration and helped to maintain interest in microscopic pathology. The use of a secure browser facilitated assessment using virtual slides, with no technical or security issues arising despite high peak demand. The new Medicine programme at the University of New South Wales will exclusively utilize virtual microscopy for the study of both histology and histopathology. We believe that the use of high-quality learning resources such as virtual slides can ensure that microscopic examination of tissues remains both meaningful and interesting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Educational Measurement / methods
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • New South Wales
  • Pathology, Clinical / education*
  • Schools, Medical
  • Students, Medical / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Teaching
  • User-Computer Interface*