Background: The role of blended learning has gained importance in the teaching of microscopy to undergraduate students however there is limited evidence to demonstrate whether virtual microscopy is more effective that glass slide in teaching histology. In this study, the role of virtual microscopy was compared to a glass slide/textbook approach as an effective alternative for tra ining Biomedical Science undergraduate students. This study explored processing style, working memory motivation, and stress as predictors of student success with the use of psychometric tasks Methods: The study was a convergent design mixed methods rese arch in which quantitative methods preceded qualitative methods. Twenty eight students with an average age of 27.9 and 79% were women, completed a series of psychometric tasks to assess their processing style, processing speed, working memory, stress, and motivation. The students were assigned to one of two groups based on their processing style and working memory: a) tutorial sessions and conventional microscopy sessions and b) tutorial sessions and Westminster Path XL. The teaching delivery took five week s, and students completed three online q uizzes on weeks 6, 10 and 17. All students were invited to complete a feedback questionnaire, and a representative selection completed an interview.
Results: Initially, a pilot study was conducted and included a control group (tutorial sessions only group C), which demonstrated that any intervention, glass slide or virtual microscopy, was better than no intervention. The intervention study conducted in 2017 18 included students from three institutions and the control group was not included. The average results for the quizzes were 15.9, 16.5 and 15.5 respectively. There was no significant difference between the results of group A and B. The dropout rate of the study was 3.6%. There was no significant improvement in tissue recognition when using virtual microscopy to teach undergraduate students when compared to glass slide and microscope Fifteen students completed the questionnaire. Thirteen students agreed that the intervention was useful, and fifteen students would recommend the learning resource to their colleagues. Ten students were invited to complete an interview and nine students were available. The themes highlighted as good practice during the interviews were the us ability of Westminster Path XL, the training delivery, application of the intervention delivery, the use of technology and the use of microscope.
Conclusion: Virtual microscopy is as good as glass slide for teaching students tissue recognition. The use of psychometric tasks cannot predict student outcome, so they should not be used to differentiate students teaching methodology for tissue recognition in histology. Students engaged positively with the technology, and it is recommended that both ap proaches should be used concurrently to allow students to gain microscopy skills and apply them in the use of technology.