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Virtual Microscopy and Team-Based Learning
At a Glance
Improve student access to Histology slides with digital slides and student-led presentations

Support knowledge acquisition by changing traditional teaching methods

A rise in Histology test scores; Positive feedback from students and teachers with the use of team-based lab exercises

Digital slides scanned up to 40x; multiple networked servers

Fig 1: 40x magnification

Office of Academic Computing
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
1600 McElderry St, MEB 310
Baltimore, MD 21210
The role of the instructor has been transformed from lecturing to guiding the learning process on a more personal basis. During the lab sessions, as student teams work through cases, faculty circulate to answer questions and guide discussion. Online access to quality images not only supports individual study at home, but also team analysis and discussion during lab sessions.

Fig 2: Micro-lecture example

The faculty in the First Year Organ Systems Histology course were looking for a way to use technology to promote a student-centered active learning experience. Starting in 2006, the redesigned curriculum extends study opportunities beyond traditional lab sessions in order to support slide identification and knowledge transfer to real life clinical case studies.

5 key components:
  1. Online digitized slide specimens in a range of magnifications
  2. Team assignments and presentations
  3. Short, graded team-based online lab quizzes
  4. Concise lab "reviews" or "overviews" by faculty or TA
  5. Mid-term tests and final exams
Before lab, students complete three activities: viewing an online lecture for an overview of the topic, completing a series of slide-specific two-minute "micro-lectures," and reviewing a set of annotated virtual slides.

Fig 3: Example of annotated micro-lecture and thumbnail navigation list

In lab, the instruction follows a three-part strategy:
  1. Student team presentations
  2. Question and answer sessions
  3. Team-based graded quiz

Mid-course practical exams require students, individually, to identify histological sections that were projected in the lecture hall. The final exam requires student identification of a series of 30 unknown slides.

Standardization of slide content
It is often difficult to maintain a satisfactory collection of glass slides due to the breakage of irreplaceable content or the degradation of specimens over time.

Accessibility any time, any place
Students are able to view and review slides online. Records maintained on the content servers record highest activity levels between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m., extending in some cases to 4:00 a.m.

Reinforcement of cooperative learning within the overall course structure
Interactions among student / faculty and student / student were facilitated and were more productive when the entire group could simultaneously view a slide.

Wide range of slide manipulations and magnifications
Students are able to scroll, magnify, and take snapshots of images.

Fig 4a: Shown at 1.25x magnification

Fig 4b: Shown at 5x magnification

Fig 4c: Shown at 20x magnification

Faculty easily annotated slides to provide learning aids in the location of structures.

Knowledge transfer from structured exercises to future clinical cases
Students are exposed to technology that foreshadows the principle method of content distribution in future clinical settings.

Pedagogical reform
Faculty use the digitized slide collections to redesign their teaching methods. Content delivery is designed in support of team-based learning activities and assessments