WhyStudentsChooseorDon’t Choose to Use an Online
Published online: 22 March 2018
International Association of Medical Science Educators 2018
Introduction Online materials are replacing traditional pathology museums and microscopes. The interactivity of these ranges from
static pictures to virtual slides. In this study, we examined how students chose to interact with magnifiable, rotating, macroscopic
specimens versus static pictures. The study focuses on motivation to interact with the extended online resource when it was supple-
mentary to, but not required to, answer questions in an online assignment.
Methods Students in a fourth-year anatomic pathology course (N = 102) completed online clinical-case-based learning activities.
Students’ interaction with online rotatable specimens and the underlying reasons were investigated using a self-developed online
Results The 360° rotatable specimens were viewed by 81% of students. Coding of responses to open-end questions identified two
short-term motivators (more information and relevant to the question) and two long-term motivators (a better understanding of
pathology and helpful for examinations) for viewing dynamic specimen representations. Students reported two reasons for not viewing
every online specimen: They could complete activities using the static images, and long loading times for pathology museum pages.
Conclusions Students who interacted with relevant online specimens were motivated by both the short-term and long-term
expectancy value. The research has implications for designing other online resources—the key to students using them is to
design for expectancy value.
Keywords Online learning resources
Pathology is a visual specialty. Learning about pathology by
studying diseased human organs preserved in Perspex Bpots^
remains essential in pathology education . Previously, this
learning experience would have occurred in a pathology museum
at hospitals or medical schools. However, access to physical
specimens is limited: there is no access to physical specimens
when students are off-campus on clinical rotations and since
specimens are unique, and of a limited number, they cannot be
equitablyplacedintutorialswhenruninparallel. In addition,
students generally do not voluntarily attend the pathology muse-
um out of contact teaching time. Museum curators are also con-
cerned that constant handling of pots results in accelerated dete-
rioration of the tissues at a time when the regulatory environment
means new specimens are difficult to acquire.
To overcome these limitations, a virtual pathology museum
that can be accessed using any web-browsing device was devel-
oped at the University of Otago, Wellington (http://pathmuseum.
otago.ac.nz). This online pathology museum comprises 360°
virtual representations of specimens that can be rotated and
magnified while remaining at high resolution (Fig. 1). Nine
hundred and fifty-two digital specimens are available and include
specimens of all major organs with multiple pathologies of each
organ. Usability testing has shown that the website is easily ac-
cessible and has high usability .
There is little value in the online pathology museum if stu-
dents choose not to use it. Online resources may be used more by
students when well integrated into the course as part of the
* Diane Kenwright
Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, University of
Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
Medical Science Educator (2018) 28:295–302