Elizabeth Adams

By

College: Medicine

Virtual Laboratory Prepares UK Undergraduates for Professional-Level Anatomy

Published: Apr 22, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 22, 2014) - At the University of Kentucky, the gross anatomy course that introduces students to the intricacies of body systems is reserved for graduate-level students. But, as Dr. April Richardson-Hatcher has discovered, real-world rules can be bent in a virtual universe.

 

A professor of anatomy and neurobiology in the UK College of Medicine, Hatcher teaches Anatomy 309: An Introduction to Regional Anatomy, a course that meets weekly in the 3-D virtual world of Second Life. In this preparatory course, which is not available in a live classroom, Hatcher gives students who are serious about health care professions a head start visualizing and understanding complex regions of the human body.

 

Hatcher's virtual course is founded on the Team-Based Learning Collaborative, a technique that engages students through team collaboration and the application of course content through critical-thinking exercises. Instructors have found the Team-Based Learning approach improves student motivation, participation, attendance and performance. Hatcher, who is studying how students respond to learning medical science through a virtual platform, offered the course for the first time during the spring semester of 2013. In March, she presented observations from the first edition of the class at the Team-Based Learning Collaborative conference in San Diego, Calif.

 

"Medicine is very group-oriented in some ways," Hatcher said. "In a lot of online courses, you are disconnected with the students around you. There's something about being in the virtual world. You feel immersed in the room, like you are in an actual classroom and you are having a shared experience."

 

Every week, students log into the virtual classroom that exists on the "UK Island," or the Second Life virtual real estate owned and managed by the University of Kentucky Information Technology Department. Before the course started, students were required to create an account in Second Life and design an avatar. Student avatars wear blue scrubs and a white lab coat to simulate a professional environment.

 

Hatcher's 90-minute course is divided into three activities: the individual quiz, the group quiz and the classroom discussion, all of which are centered on a specific body region assigned to the classroom the week before. After completing a timed individual quiz, the students "teleport" to an assigned classroom where they deliberate in groups of four to six to answer questions on the group quiz and clinical scenarios. Students use instant messaging and voice communication to discuss the clinical scenario. They conclude the session by teleporting to the "main" laboratory where Hatcher's avatar leads an open discussion of the clinical scenarios and reviews answers. These components of the Team-Based Learning curriculum are designed to enhance students’ confidence and group skills prior to entering their professional training programs.

 

Instructors and teaching assistants also wear lab coats and continuously monitor the dialogue among students during the group exercises. As an instructor in the virtual classroom, Hatcher has the advantage of engaging in multiple discussions with students at once and monitoring their thought processes.

 

With the help of Matt Hazzard, a biomedical illustrator in UK Information Technology, Hatcher custom built multiple classrooms and a laboratory in the Second Life program. In preparation for the weekly Team-Based Learning sessions, students study descriptive, animated PowerPoint presentations of the regional anatomy. They also study a customized list of cadaver structures through an online program Anatomy and Physiology Revealed 3.0. Students can virtually dissect the regions of interest with clickable phases revealing each layer of muscles, ligaments, vessels, nerves and bone structures. These images are then presented as practicum-style questions on the course exams to mimic the experience of a lab exam in future professional anatomy courses.

 

Hatcher and Hazzard also worked together to design the Cranial Nerve Skywalk, a room hovering above the UK Island in Second Life where students from all over the world can visualize and study a 3-D model of complex cranial nerves III, V, VII and IX.

 

Hazzard constructed the models from 3-D scans of human bones, provided by Dr. Paul Brown from Stanford University, by superimposing basic nerve structures on the skull models. Teaching and learning the cranial nerve pathways is often a challenge using only two-dimensional illustrations. Using the virtual 3-D models, students are able to grasp an understanding of the pathways of cranial nerves and the types of fibers carried within those nerves.

 

The virtual world also allows collaboration and conversation with students from all parts of the world. Students and professors from universities in Manitoba, Canada, and Perth, Australia, have logged into Second Life to sit in on classes and view the cranial nerve models on UK’s Island. Hatcher will present a workshop on the virtual Team-Based Learning technique at upcoming conferences for the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society in May and International Association of Medical Science Educators in June.

 

A student in the inaugural class offered in 2013, Mary Jennings is now a first-year medical student at UK. Jennings, a biology and Spanish major, added Hatcher's class to her final semester schedule to prepare for hands-on anatomy courses in medical school. She said the course helped her become familiar with medical terminology and develop habits to memorize an immense amount of material. In addition, the class helped her prepare psychologically for working on real cadavers in medical school.

 

"It was nice in the sense that you were prepared to see people who had passed and treat that in a scientific way," Jennings said.

 

Because medical school involves group learning and often competitive personalities, Jennings thinks the Team-Based Learning environment gave her valuable experience engaging in fast-paced scientific discussions and collaborating with a team.

 

"There are so many type A people who are so competitive and you are asking them to work as a team," Jennings said of medical students. "At some level, (the course) did prepare me for how tough people are on each other. Most the time, people are great, but they are really academically strong."

 

Austin Stratton, a senior studying biology and psychology, echoed an appreciation for the preparatory course. As a visual learner, Stratton, who is applying to medical school, was able to get a sense of what he expects to see in medical school. 

 

"An online interactive kind of class was very cool for me because I play a lot of video games," Stratton said. "In a great way, it contributed to my future in medicine."

 

To view the cranial nerve skywalk in Second Life, visit http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/University%20of%20KY/123/40/1001. 

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Adams, elizabethadams@uky.edu

hatcher_class_feature_photog.jpggroup_discussion_in_second_life.jpgcranial_nerve_skywalk.jpg
April
 
 
 
1
LNFS Presents: Inherent Vice
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Successful Networking & Job Search
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Brazilian Conversation Hour
The Arboretum presents a Party for the Planet! Celebrate Kentucky's Past
Mr. PharmD Pageant 2015
Wed
2
LNFS Presents: Manakamana
LNFS Presents: Donnie Darko
National Student Exchange (NSE) Info Session
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Wildcat Wellness: Healthy Habits
SEC-ACC Virtual Career Fair
Massage on the Go #3
Thu
3
Cultural Coffee Hour
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Fri
4
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Sat
5
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Sun
6
Wildcat Wellness: Expressions (Creative Stress Relief)
Age Friendly Community Panel
Resumes & Cover Letters that Work
Mon
7
National Student Exchange (NSE) Info Session
Wildcat Wellness: Relaxation
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Tue
8
LNFS Presents: The Godfather
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Internship Info Session
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Brazilian Conversation Hour
UK Remembers
SpeakBlue: Richard Sherman
Wed
9
LNFS Presents: The Shawshank Redemption
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Wildcat Wellness: Healthy Habits
From Plows to Plates: A Journey Through Kentucky Foodways
Workshop on Publishing
Teached Documentary
Thu
10
LNFS Presents: Enemy
LNFS Presents: Seven Psychopaths
Cultural Coffee Hour
Last Day to Withdraw or Reduce Course Load
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture: Julian Cox
Fri
11
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
fab-ric-ate Exhibit
Sat
12
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Kentucky's Present - Learn about the Bluegrass region of the Walk Across Kentucky and about invasive plants that threaten Kentucky landscapes
Sun
13
Wildcat Wellness: Expressions (Creative Stress Relief)
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Get Your DIY On! Fix-It Station Demonstrations
Mon
14
Wildcat Wellness: Relaxation
Job Club - LinkedIn: Your Job Search Best Friend
Tie Dye Tuesday
#UK Kick Butts Day
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 1 p.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 2 p.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 3 p.m.
Take Back the Night Lexington
Tue
15
LNFS Presents: The Godfather: Part II
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Brazilian Conversation Hour
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 11 a.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ Noon
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 1 p.m.
Affrilachian Poets
Bike-In Movie: The Bicycle Thieves
Wed
16
LNFS Presents: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Wildcat Wellness: Healthy Habits
CANCELED: Bike-In Breakfast
Human Rights in China: a panel discussion
Thu
17
LNFS Presents: North by Northwest
LNFS Presents: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Cultural Coffee Hour
Car-Free Day
Performance Conference
Audience Appeals and Performing Assistance Conference
Holi: The Indian Festival of Colors
Fri
18
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Bully Breed Awareness Walk
Spring Carnival 2015
Taste of Africa
GAYla Drag Show and Silent Auction
Sat
19
 
Sun
20
Wildcat Wellness: Expressions (Creative Stress Relief)
Floral Sculpture
Pinterest Party #3
Mon
21
Wildcat Wellness: Relaxation
Student Center "Farewell" Informational Fair
Tour de Downtown Art
Tue
22
LNFS Presents: Birdman
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
National Student Exchange (NSE) Info Session
Brazilian Conversation Hour
Healthy Smoothie Demonstration
Ping Pong Ball Drop
Shake the Stress Fest
Wed
23
LNFS Presents: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
LNFS Presents: The Avengers
Wildcat Wellness: Healthy Habits
Wildcat Wrap-Up
UK Elder Care Lunch & Learn
Kentucky's Future - Plant a Tree in the Pennyrile region of the Walk Across Kentucky
Thu
24
LNFS Presents: Batman
LNFS Presents: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Cultural Coffee Hour
Art in Bloom Weekend
Fri
25
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Network Publishing: Digital Writing in the Humanities
The Party for the Planet final event in April is Arbor Day at The Arboretum!
Art in Bloom Weekend
Raise the Chinese Dream in Kentucky
Art in Bloom Cocktail Party
Sat
26
Art in Bloom Weekend
Sun
27
Resumes & Cover Letters that Work
Wildcat Wellness: Expressions (Creative Stress Relief)
Fuel for Finals
UK Ag Equine Programs Distinguished Lecture Series
Mon
28
Wildcat Wellness: Relaxation
Be PAWsitive!
Job Club: How to Write the Perfect Resume and Cover Letter
Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars
How to Impress Your Boss: Employer Panel
Tue
29
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Internship Info Session
Brazilian Conversation Hour
Appalachian Research Day
Wed
30
Wildcat Wellness: Healthy Habits
Thu
 
 

Repeats every week until Thu Apr 30 2015 except Tue Mar 17 2015.
Tue, 04/28/2015

Tue, 04/28/2015

Reset Page