Teaching Human Anatomy: A Comparison of In-Person and Online Learning Programs


  •   James McKivigan

  •   Noel Guison

  •   Rakhshindah Qureshi


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges in providing anatomy instruction to allied health professions. Human anatomy laboratory classes often rely on human cadavers as instructional material. At some institutions, the anatomical instructional method shifted to online resources. It was essential to compare online methods to those used in the traditional cadaver-based curriculum to determine efficacy. A technique was devised to compare these two approaches. The working hypothesis was that virtual human anatomy models are equally effective to traditional methods in providing anatomy instruction to allied health students.

Methods: Students enrolled in this study participated in a human anatomy course delivered either in-person or virtually via Aclan’s Anatomy, NetAnatomy, and Anatomy TV. The instructional design was the same except that the in-person learning group participated in a real-time cadaver anatomy lab, while the virtual learning group utilized online models and simulations. Students were assessed using the same three written tests and three laboratory examinations.

Results: Student demographics and evaluation outcomes were presented, and no significant differences concerning sex or educational program between the two student cohorts were identified. Post hoc testing revealed no statistically significant differences between student cohort and test-type. The three-way interaction between test type, test number, and cohort was not significant.

Conclusions: The findings confirmed the hypothesis. There were no statistically significant differences between the test performance of human anatomy students who received online training versus those who participated in in-person classroom instruction. These results suggest that human anatomy can be taught effectively using an online format.

Keywords: Allied health education, anatomy instruction, cadaver instruction, virtual anatomy


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How to Cite
McKivigan, J., Guison, N., & Qureshi, R. (2021). Teaching Human Anatomy: A Comparison of In-Person and Online Learning Programs. European Journal of Medical and Health Sciences, 3(6), 6–10. https://doi.org/10.24018/ejmed.2021.3.6.1011