The Anatomage table: Differences in student ratings between initial implementation and established use
Introduction: Increased student numbers and limited cadaver/prosected materials in health courses at Curtin University have required reviewing the way in which we teach our students in laboratory classes. The Anatomage table, an interactive tablet for viewing life-size anatomical images, was introduced into first-year human biology classes in 2013 to replace cadaver materials.
Methods: Two student cohorts were surveyed in 2013 and 2014 on their perception of the usefulness of the Anatomage table and other anatomy resources to their learning. On a scale of 0–100, students were asked to rate a range of anatomy learning tools, including the Anatomage table.
Results: Respondents (2013, n = 333; 2014, n = 329) rated video/animations most useful for learning (77.8/100), followed by models (63.9/100), plastinates (58.4/100) and the Anatomage table (42.4/100), a pattern consistent across gender, use of digital devices and cohort year. In 2014, respondents rated the Anatomage table more favourably (42.4/100) than in 2013 (36.9/100) (p = 0.022). The Anatomage table was rated most helpful for understanding relative sizes of organs but least helpful for using correct anatomical terminology. Qualitative data showed that in 2013, students were frustrated by screen-freezing problems and low-quality graphics, issues that were mostly addressed by 2014. Across both years, student comments were positive regarding the 3D aspect, seeing organ sizes and relationships, the slice tool for cross-sections and avoiding the need for cadaver specimens. Students also liked the Anatomage structured activities and pre-set images but wanted more time to explore and less than eight students around the table at any one time. Students felt unprepared for using the Anatomage table, and the single touch capacity was limiting when working in groups.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that touch-screen technology needs careful curriculum design and training for both students and staff to optimise its usefulness for learning.
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