Virtual Pathology Learning Resource: A Promising Strategy in Teaching Pathology to Allied Health Science Students
The objective of this study was to concept test a new 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 review disease manifestations independently. However, this approach was found inadequate and ineffective. 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 pedagogy, this learning resource was developed to enhance the teaching and learning of Pathology.
Cross-sectional study design was used. A survey, given at the end of the course, gathered qualitative and quantitative data concerning the perceptions and experiences of the students about VPLR and its components. The online tool SurveyMonkey was utilised so that students could respond anonymously to a web link that displayed the questionnaire. The perceived impact on students was assessed using an 18-item questionnaire seeking agreement or disagreement with statements about VPLR, multiple choice 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 a promising strategy in teaching Pathology as it assisted students’ gaining knowledge of the science, facilitated connections between sciences, and allowed students to make better links with professional practice and skills.
As students found VPLR to be beneficial, it is recommended that the same approach is applied for the teaching of Pathology to other health science students, such as Nursing. Other universities might consider adopting the innovation for their courses.
Applying VPLR to teaching other allied health science students will be undertaken next. The 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 with greater depth of understanding of content and increase motivation to study. These are important to keep students engaged and ready for practice. VPLR may impact on education and technology trends so that exploration and possibilities of initiatives are ongoing to help students become successful learners. Other impacts are the new forms of learning discovered, the renewed focus on group work and collaboration, and maximising 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 whether the impacts of the innovation were durable, meaning the change in perceptions and behaviour is sustained over time.