This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the 10th European Congress on Telepathology and 4th International Congress on Virtual Microscopy

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Traditional microscopy instruction versus process-oriented virtual microscopy instruction: a naturalistic experiment with control group

Laura Helle1*, Markus Nivala1, Pauliina Kronqvist2, Andreas Gegenfurtner1, Pasi Björk1 and Roger Säljö3

Author affiliations

1 University of Turku, Centre for Learning Research, 20014 Turun yliopisto, Finland

2 University of Turku, Department of Pathology, 20014 Turun yliopisto, Finland

3 University of Gothenburg, Department of Education, P.O. Box 300, 40530 Gothenburg, Sweden

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Citation and License

Diagnostic Pathology 2011, 6(Suppl 1):S8  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-6-S1-S8

Published: 30 March 2011



Virtual microscopy is being introduced in medical education as an approach for learning how to interpret information in microscopic specimens. It is, however, far from evident how to incorporate its use into existing teaching practice. The aim of the study was to explore the consequences of introducing virtual microscopy tasks into an undergraduate pathology course in an attempt to render the instruction more process-oriented. The research questions were: 1) How is virtual microscopy perceived by students? 2) Does work on virtual microscopy tasks contribute to improvement in performance in microscopic pathology in comparison with attending assistant-led demonstrations only?


During a one-week period, an experimental group completed three sets of virtual microscopy homework assignments in addition to attending demonstrations. A control group attended the demonstrations only. Performance in microscopic pathology was measured by a pre-test and a post-test. Student perceptions of regular instruction and virtual microscopy were collected one month later by administering the Inventory of Intrinsic Motivation and open-ended questions.


The students voiced an appreciation for virtual microscopy for the purposes of the course and for self-study. As for learning gains, the results indicated that learning was speeded up in a subgroup of students consisting of conscientious high achievers.


The enriched instruction model may be suited as such for elective courses following the basic course. However, the instructional model needs further development to be suited for basic courses.