Integrating histology and histopathology teaching in practical classes using virtual slides

Anat Rec B New Anat. 2006 Jul;289(4):128-33. doi: 10.1002/ar.b.20105.


The new medicine program at the University of New South Wales employs scenario-based learning with vertically integrated classes of year 1 and year 2 students, as well as horizontally integrated teaching with no discipline-specific courses. Coinciding with its introduction, we undertook comprehensive revision of the approach to teaching microscopic anatomy and pathology. We designed practical classes around virtual slides, which are high-magnification digital images of tissue sections stored in a multiresolution file format, viewable in a Web browser in a manner closely simulating conventional microscopy. In these classes, we integrated the teaching of histology and histopathology, introducing students to the microscopic features of tissues and organs, and giving them the opportunity to compare and contrast the normal with the abnormal in various disease states. Members of academic staff from both anatomy and pathology were present to promote discussion and respond to questions. Worksheets defined learning objectives and provided clinical cases as contexts for learning in each class. Evaluation revealed that students strongly supported the integrated approach. The efficiency of the teaching method meant that it was possible to work through 5-8 virtual slides per 2-hr class without difficulty. Students displayed considerable initiative in exploring the histological features of tissues, identifying the changes in various pathological states, and recognizing their relationship to clinical manifestations. We believe that the approach we have developed should help to minimize the potential adverse impact of curriculum reform on the teaching of morphology, while ensuring that learning remains both meaningful and interesting.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction
  • Education, Medical
  • Educational Measurement
  • Histology / education*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Learning
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Pathology, Clinical / education*
  • Schools, Medical
  • Students, Medical
  • Teaching*
  • User-Computer Interface*