Research Article: Strategic Improvements for Gross Anatomy Web-Based Teaching

Date Published: December 14, 2012

Publisher: Hindawi Publishing Corporation

Author(s): David R. Marker, Krishna Juluru, Chris Long, Donna Magid.


Current generations of graduate students have been immersed in technology from their early school years and have high expectations regarding digital resources. To better meet the expectations of Gross Anatomy students at our institution, electronic radiology teaching files for first-year coursework were organized into a web site. The web site was custom designed to provide material that directly correlated to the Gross Anatomy dissection and lectures. Quick links provided sets of images grouped by anatomic location. Additionally, Lab and Study Companions provided specific material for the students to review prior to and after lectures and gross dissections. Student opinions of this education resource were compared to student opinions of the prior year’s digital teaching files. The new content was ranked as more user friendly (3.1 points versus 2.3 points) and more useful for learning anatomy (3.3 points versus 2.6 points). Many students reported that using the web portal was critical in helping them to better understand relationships of anatomical structures. These findings suggest that a well-organized web portal can provide a user-friendly, valuable educational resource for medical students who are studying Gross Anatomy.

Partial Text

Gross anatomy is a fundamental component of first-year medical school curriculum. During this course, students gain a distinct visual understanding of the organ systems and their relationships to one another. Traditionally this visual understanding has been obtained through a surgical perspective provided by gross dissection or prosection [1]. More recently, with the advent of modern medical imaging, anatomy education has increasingly been supplemented by a radiological perspective [2–4]. Gross Anatomy coursework that provides both perspectives is arguably the ideal training for medical students who will require facility using both views during surgery and radiology rotations or when consulting these services. In support of this educational approach, several recent studies have reported improved clinical training through the use of imaging educational resources [3, 5–7]. In a study that directly compared the approaches, Stanford et al. reported that the combination of gross dissection and computer-based educational tools was a more efficacious teaching approach than either teaching modality alone [8].

One of the goals of first-year Anatomy curricular redesign efforts at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was to further integrate Radiology into the coursework. The initial efforts for this integration were centered on developing a Medical-Imaging-Resource-Center (MIRC-) based website with relevant teaching files to supplement topics discussed in lecture and corresponding gross dissections [15]. The goal of the present study was to improve on these initial efforts through the creation of a web portal that would organize existing teaching files as well as newly created educational resources and more fully integrate this material into the existing Anatomy coursework.

After collecting the responses to the web-based survey, the data was exported from the survey site ( to spreadsheet format for aggregating and graphing the data. The spreadsheet data was imported into SPSS version 13.0 software (SPSS, Chicago, Illinois) for additional data analysis and statistical calculations. Comparisons of proportions for student responses for the current year to the prior year were made utilizing a chi-square analysis with a Yate’s correction. A Mann-Whitney rank sum test was conducted to compare the mean values of the student responses. P values less than 0.05 were considered statistically significant.

The demographic profile of the students who responded to the web-based survey this year was similar to the prior year. There were 87 of 120 medical students (73%) who completed the survey this year compared to 71% who completed the survey the previous year (P = 0.886). In both cohorts, the majority of the students was between 22 and 25 years old and had an undergraduate degree in biology. The only difference in demographics noted between the two groups was that the more recent cohort of students had a smaller percentage of Fine Arts majors (5% compared to 15%, P = 0.036).

Recent student feedback at our institution suggested the need for a more organized approach for presenting the Radiology component of the first year medical school Gross Anatomy course. Based on feedback from earlier efforts and assessment of studies that have shown successful approaches for implementing web portals for clinical practice, efforts were made to better organize Radiology teaching files prepared for Gross Anatomy. In general, the results of the present study suggest that organizing web material to better correspond to Anatomy course work and providing it in a structured set of links in a web portal was associated with increased student satisfaction and utilization of the resource.




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