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The Virtual Anatomy Lab: an eDemonstrator pedagogical agent can simulate student-faculty interaction and promote student engagement

Jonathan Weber, Maxwell Hincke, Beata Patasi, Alireza Jalali, Nadine Wiper-Bergeron
  • Jonathan Weber
    Division of Clinical and Functional Anatomy, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Maxwell Hincke
    Division of Clinical and Functional Anatomy, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Beata Patasi
    Division of Clinical and Functional Anatomy, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Alireza Jalali
    Division of Clinical and Functional Anatomy, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Nadine Wiper-Bergeron
    Division of Clinical and Functional Anatomy, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | Nadine.WiperBergeron@uottawa.ca

Abstract

As medical curricula evolve, many universities have adopted a clinical case-centered medical curriculum with a strong focus on small group learning and reduction of traditional lectures such that anatomy has become a self-taught subject supported by e-learning modules. One caveat of this approach is decreased student-faculty interaction and reduced student engagement. Thus use of e-learning must be balanced with the need for continued student-faculty interaction to promote healthy student engagement. To both support self-directed learning of anatomy and to simulate student-faculty interaction, we created the Virtual Anatomy Lab (VAL) that features a human pedagogical agent, called the eDemonstrator, who guides student navigation through the available learning resources. The VAL was evaluated using a mixed methods approach (usage statistics and focus groups) by two medical student populations at the University of Ottawa: first year medical students in a revised curriculum where anatomy lectures were abolished and laboratory sessions were self-taught, and second year medical students in the former curriculum in which anatomy lectures were given in advance of each laboratory session. We conclude that online modules such as the VAL, well designed with a human pedagogical agent, can be used within the curriculum without negatively impacting student engagement. Ethical Approval for this study was obtained from the Ottawa Hospital Research Ethics Board (protocol number #2009055-01H).

Keywords

anatomy, pedagogical agent, virtual learning environment, undergraduate medical education

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Submitted: 2012-04-12 21:23:42
Published: 2012-07-31 13:58:26
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Copyright (c) 2012 Jonathan Weber, Maxwell Hincke, Beata Patasi, Alireza Jalali, Nadine Wiper-Bergeron

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