Virtual Models Using Augmented Reality May Provide a Suitable Supplement, Although Not a Physical Specimen Replacement, in Pathology Education

Christian Moro*, Dianheng Bu, Aditya Gadgil, Gordon Wright, Cindy J. Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


There is a growing trend towards using virtual models within medical programs. In some disciplines, the use of human samples or cadavers is increasingly being replaced by technology-enhanced modes of delivery. Although this transition can occur with some success, the impact of virtual representations to replace depictions of disease states from dissected samples displayed in acrylic pathological specimen jars has never been investigated. This study assessed medical student perceptions of replacing teaching through physical specimens (i.e. specimen jars or real tissue) with virtual models across cardiovascular, neural, musculoskeletal, haematology, endocrine and immunological pathology curricula. Seventy-four year 2 (n = 31) and year 5 (n = 43) medical students participated in the study. After being provided with a demonstration of a potential tablet-based lesson on lung pathology using augmented reality, participants completed a Likert-scale survey and provided written feedback. Questions requested thoughts on the usefulness of the 3D-virtual model compared to physical specimens and whether current teaching in pathology could be replaced by technology-enhanced practices. Most students (58.15%) disagreed on the replacement of physical specimens with virtual models. Furthermore, over half the students (55.4%) indicated that the replacement of physical specimens with augmented reality models would not be beneficial for pathology learning. Nearly two-thirds of students believed that the absence of physical specimens would negatively impact their knowledge. Nonetheless, many students would appreciate the opportunity to revise pathology away from the labs with virtual options. As such, an overwhelming number of students (89.2%) would prefer having both physical specimens and virtual models for learning. This study identifies that technology-enhanced learning may be a suitable supplement alongside traditional hands-on teaching but should not replace the use of pathological specimens within a medical curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)879-885
Number of pages7
Journal Medical Science Educator
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2023


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