Digital Microscopy improving Histology students’ access to ideas
Using a virtual microscope to increase students’ access to and identification of microscope slides, Dr Catherine Gorrie’s project is extending conventional microscopy learning in Science courses.
What the project is aboutDr Gorrie is developing an online ‘virtual microscope’ to provide students with a resource tool for use prior to and after laboratory classes and lectures in Histology. Students will be able to, for example, compare and review the virtual microscope slide images with those viewed looking down the actual microscope in their laboratory class.
Why the project is being introduced
Students’ access to microscopes is limited outside laboratory class. This project will therefore support and enhance current curriculum by providing students with a ‘virtual microscope’ they can access from home to identify, revise and develop understanding of histology-related ideas. It will also provide greater opportunities for students to work together, discuss and test out their ideas.
How the project is being implemented
The ‘virtual microscope’ is being implemented through the SPARKplus system. Dr Gorrie has developed each module on SPARKplus to cover one topic and take 10-20 minutes to complete. Students are provided with online assistance via a brief introductory tutorial explaining the SPARKplus system, how to access the images and complete the modules. Students use the system to provide and receive immediate feedback through images, questions and comments.
Challenges and considerations
Initially, the quality of the images under the 'virtual microscope' needed improving to increase clarity for analysis and identification. This problem was solved, and now Dr Gorrie is looking at having a zoom function developed.
Dr Gorrie recommends not only spending time on presenting new and novel concepts to the students but also considering how to use other resources to guide that conceptual development and increase their participation:
"I think I expected students to embrace this from the start and some did, but I think many were just bewildered, especially as it was not assessed. I have a better idea of how this software works now, and will be able to develop and integrate everything for students better next year."