Seeing is believing: enhanced learning of Parasitology using a virtual microscope

de Waal, Theo and Annetta, Zintl (2014) Seeing is believing: enhanced learning of Parasitology using a virtual microscope. In: The 15th Educational Technology Conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA). May 29th and 30th, UCD, Dublin, Ireland.


Typically, parasitology practical labs are taught using microscopes and parasites/parasite stages mounted on glass slides. Apart from problems associated with glass slides such as damage, deterioration, cost and time of obtaining good specimens a major drawback of classical microscopic parasitology is that students often don't see what you want them to see under the microscope. Not every slide is identical and students often tend to confuse debri on a microscope slide with parasite/parasite structures and it is difficult to demonstrate this in a laboratory teaching class room. SlidePath and Digital SlideBox is a virtual microscopy e-learning environment providing a new way in teaching practical classes in Veterinary Parasitology. Although this technology is commonly being used in human medical education for the teaching of histology and histopathology its use in less common in the Veterinary curriculum. Specimens of parasites/parasite stages in blood, tissue or faeces have been digitized and made accessible on the UCD server. The Digital Slidebox software enables the viewing of images directly on a computer screen and the students are able to zoom and pan to explore the slide and make independent annotations. This system makes is much easier to demonstrate specific features to students on a computer screen and images can also be pre-annotated to enhance student learning. Practical classes in Veterinary Parasitology were taught through Digital SlideBox to all students. Most students found the system easy to use and mastered it with little support and their experience was generally positive. They appreciated the fact that the images was available 24/7 and that images could re-examined remotely. One drawback of the digital system is that some parasite stages require high power magnification (1000x) to see the details and scanning slides at such high magnification is not yet (routinely) available. Generally using a virtual microscope to teach Veterinary Parasitology practicals is logistically much easier and also makes for a less stressful environment for both staff and students involved. It is planned to integrate MCQ tests, course notes and multimedia content into the digital Slidebox to further enhance student learning in future.

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