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Pandemic anatomy education: the changing study habits of students Learning Anatomy in the United Kingdom and Ireland

conference contribution
posted on 2023-06-10, 06:19 authored by Georga Longhurst, Danya Stone, Kate Dulohery, Thomas Campbell, Annalise Richard, Thomas Franchi, Dominic O'Brien, Samuel Hall, Scott Border
The sudden upheaval to student life caused by Covid-19 drastically changed how and where medical students study. Consequently, many anatomy educators chose to deliver their teaching via a blended format – a common recommendation by many institutions. This investigation aimed to explore the behavioural changes to student’s study environments and the challenges experienced as a result of learning anatomy remotely. This work also collated student’s opinions of online anatomical resources, to inform future online teaching strategies. A 48-item survey instrument, containing a 33-item adapted Anatomy Learning Experience Questionnaire (ALEQ) was completed by 242 medical students from seven universities. The results revealed a statistically significant change in chosen study environment [X2 (20, n = 211) = 217.7, p = 0.001] with the majority of students choosing to return to live with their parents/guardians (81.6%) from their local rented shared accommodation (38.9%). Two hundred and thirty-two respondents (96.7%) stated that they faced more than one challenge with online learning, while only four (1.7%) experienced no challenges or disruption. About 65.4% of students indicated that their confidence in anatomy decreased due to a lack of cadaveric exposure and changes to assessment formats. While the majority of students agreed (or strongly agreed) that all online resources were effective tools to learn anatomy, findings from the thematic analysis revealed that ‘no-one size fitted all’ in terms of resources. Chi-squared analysis revealed that students had a clear preference for formative examination opportunities created by their own instructors X2 (4, n = 113) = 21.74, p = 0.0002]. However, there was no significant difference between preferences for asynchronous compared to synchronous lectures and educational videos made by instructors compared to those sourced online. In addition, students desired explicit and clear guidance on how to find and utilise accurate and reliable online resources, including advice on how to integrate them within their own learning approaches. This investigation suggests that online learning in anatomy can be successful, but that students are lacking confidence due to less hands-on teaching. Although online tools are an acceptable replacement in some instances, students welcome metacognitive strategies from their tutors to enable them to utilise such resources effectively and efficiently. Ethical approval was granted by BSMS Research Governance Ethics Committee


Publication status

  • Published


Journal of Anatomy









Page range


Event name

Anatomical Society Summer Meeting Glasgow 2021: Cutting Edge Anatomy

Event location

Glasgow, Scotland (Virtual)

Event type


Event date

7th – 9th July 2021

Department affiliated with

  • Division of Medical Education Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • No

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