Complete and rapid switch from light microscopy to virtual microscopy for teaching medical histology

Anat Rec B New Anat. 2005 Jul;285(1):19-25. doi: 10.1002/ar.b.20066.


During the interim between the 2003 and 2004 academic years, the cell and tissue biology and integrated medical neuroscience courses at the Medical College of Wisconsin made a complete and rapid switch from light microscopy- to virtual microscopy-based histology laboratories. This switch was prompted by the difficulties in maintaining and the cost of replacing the college's microscopes and microscope slides, and primarily by the desire to promote and streamline learning for our large classes (n > 200) of first-year medical students. A group of students who used the virtual microscope, another group of students who used the light microscope, and faculty with experience using both tools rated the effectiveness of the virtual microscope for learning and teaching. Also, to determine whether virtual microscopy affected student learning, laboratory examination scores for the 2004 class (n = 209) were compared with those of four previous classes that used light microscopes exclusively (n = 811). The switch from light microscopy to virtual microscopy was very favorably received by both students and faculty. More importantly, data from examination scores and course evaluation surveys indicated that use of the virtual microscope may significantly improve student performance and learning efficiency. Procedures for successfully implementing this change are described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods*
  • Data Collection
  • Education, Medical*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Histology / education*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Schools, Medical
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Wisconsin