A Comparison Between Virtual and Conventional Microscopes in Health Science Education





virtual microscope, web-based microscope, health science education, learning experience


Virtual microscopes are computer or web-based programs that enable users to visualize digital slides and mimic the experience of using a real light microscope. Traditional light microscopes have always been an essential teaching tool in health science education to observe and learn cell and tissue structures. However, studies comparing virtual and real light microscopes in education reported learners’ satisfaction with virtual microscopes regarding their usability, image quality, efficiency, and availability. Although the use of virtual or web-based microscopy is increasing, there is no equivalent decrease in the number of schools utilizing traditional microscopes. We conducted a scoping review to investigate the comparative impact of conventional and virtual microscopes on different aspects of learning. We report a relative effect of virtual and light microscopy on student performance, long-term knowledge retention, and satisfaction. Our results show that virtual microscopy is superior to traditional microscopes as a teaching tool in health science education. Further studies are needed on different learning components to guide the best use of virtual microscopy as a sole teaching tool for health care education.

Author Biographies

Nazlee Sharmin, University of Alberta

Nazlee Sharmin is an Assistant Teaching Professor at the School of Dentistry at the University of Alberta in Canada. She completed her PhD in Physiology, Cell, and Developmental Biology and a MEd from the University of Alberta. Her research interest focuses on developing technologies in classroom teaching to improve students’ learning experiences.

Ava K. Chow, University of Alberta

Ava K. Chow is an Associate Professor at the School of Dentistry at the University of Alberta in Canada. She completed her PhD in Medical Sciences and a MEd from the University of Alberta. Her research interests include examining technology in education, foundational science education, and student-wellness. In lab, she studies the linkages between oral and systemic health.

Alice S. Dong, University of Alberta

Alice S. Dong has completed her Doctor of Dental Surgery from the School of Dentistry, University of Alberta in Canada. She is currently practicing as a general dentist.


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