Virtual Pathology Learning Resource is proving to be an effective strategy in teaching Pathology to allied health science students

Jyothi Thalluri, Joy Penman
InSITE 2018  •  2018  •  pp. 902

[This Proceedings paper was revised and published in the 2018 issue of the journal Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, Volume 15]

The aim of this study was to concept test a novel instructional aid called Virtual Pathology Learning Resource (VPLR), which was used as a vehicle to communicate information, and enhance teaching and learning of basic sciences (Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology) to allied health science students at a South Australian university. 

Pathology was traditionally taught using potted specimens to independently review macroscopic features of disease. However, this approach alone was found inadequate and ineffective. For one, the potted specimens were not easily accessible for all students. VPLR is a new teaching platform comprising of digitised human normal and human pathology specimens (histology, histopathology), patient case studies, short answer and critical thinking questions, and self-assessment quizzes. Using authentic learning theory as an educational approach, this learning resource was developed to enhance the teaching and learning of Pathology.

A cross-sectional study design was used. A survey, administered at the conclusion of the course, gathered qualitative and quantitative data concerning the perceptions and experiences of the students about VPLR. The online tool SurveyMonkey was utilised so that students could respond anonymously to a web link that displayed the questionnaire. The effectiveness of the program and its perceived impact on students was assessed using a 18-item questionnaire seeking agreement or disagreement with statements about VPLR, and open-ended questions querying the best things about VPLR, benefits to be derived, and areas for improvement. Descriptive and frequency analyses were performed.

The VPLR approach involved rich learning situations, contextualised content, and facilitated greater understanding of disease concepts and problems.

In a sample of 103 Medical Radiation students, 42% of students (N=43) responded to the post-intervention survey.  The majority of students reported highly positive effects for each component of the VPLR.  The overall results indicated that this tool was an effective strategy in teaching Pathology as it assisted students' gaining knowledge and developing professional imaging skills.

As students found VLPR to be beneficial, it is recommended that the same approach be applied for teaching of Pathology to other allied health students, such as Nursing. Other universities might consider adopting this innovation for their courses.

Applying VPLR to other allied health science students will be undertaken next. This innovation will be appropriate for other health science students with particular emphasis on case-based or problem-based learning, and combined with clinical experiences.

In reshaping the way of teaching a science course, students are benefited by a greater depth of understanding of content, and increase motivation with study. These are important to keep students engaged and prepared for practice. VPLR may impact on education and technology trends so that continuous exploration and possibilities of initiatives are ongoing to help students be successful learners. Other impacts are the new forms of learning discovered, and the renewed focus on group work and collaboration and the use of technology in innovation.

Future directions of this research would be to conduct a follow-up of this cohort of students to determine if the impacts of the innovation were durable, that means the change in perceptions and behaviour are sustained over time.

virtual learning, pathology, higher education, allied health science students, tissue specimens, case scenarios, medical radiation
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