Introduction: The approaches to learning students adopt when learning anatomy online could yield important lessons for educators. Dissection room teaching can encourage students to adopt a deep approach to learning anatomy. It was therefore hypothesized that the proportion of students adopting a deep approach to learning would be lower in a population learning anatomy online. This research aims to investigate the experiences of students learning anatomy online during the COVID-19 pandemic and the approaches to learning they adopted. Methods: A survey was distributed to medical students at 7 universities across the UK and Ireland. The survey included two previously validated questionnaires: Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students and Anatomy Learning Experience Questionnaire. Results: The analysis included 224 unique student responses. Students’ approach to learning mirrored reports from previous studies conducted during face-to-face tuition with 44.3% adopting deep, 40.7% strategic, 11.4% surface, and 3.6% combined learning approaches. The university (p = 0.019) and changes to formative (p = 0.016) and summative (p = 0.009) assessments significantly impacted approach to learning. Students reported that online resources were effective but highlighted the need for clearer guidance on how to find and use them successfully. Conclusion: It is important to highlight that students value in-person opportunities to learn from human cadaveric material and hence dissection room sessions should remain at the forefront of anatomical education. It is recommended that future online and/or blended provisions of anatomy teaching include varied resources that maximize engagement with media featuring cadaveric specimens.


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Cite as

Stone, D., Longhurst, G., Dulohery, K., Campbell, T., Richards, A., O'Brien, D., Franchi, T., Hall, S. & Border, S. 2022, 'A multicentre analysis of approaches to learning and student experiences of learning anatomy online', Medical Science Educator, 32, pp. 1117-1130. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40670-022-01633-7

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Last updated: 15 November 2022
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