Microscope Live Online

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Teaching laboratory course in life science online has been revolutionized by digital microscopy.  A creative use of screen recording software in combination with digital microscopy has created a practical and effective online course which provides authentic laboratory experience to students when learning basic medical science using microscope. 


Dr. Zhang taught her first class at the age of eleven. Since then, her passion for teaching has continued to grow. After eight years of medical school in China (Shandong University School of Medicine), she came to the United States and got her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Dr. Zhang has taught a wide range of basic medical science and clinical laboratory courses including anatomy, physiology, cell and molecular biology, molecular diagnostics, microbiology, genetics, biochemistry, pathophysiology, pathology, pharmacology and reproductive medicine at both the undergraduate and graduate level before joining the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. Dr. Zhang has been the recipient of many awards in speech competitions, presentations, and teaching during her school years, both in China and the United States. Since she began teaching online in 2004, Dr. Zhang has been interested in new technologies that bring teaching and learning to a new and higher level. She has been invited to host several national and international workshops in online teaching since 2009. Dr. Zhang enjoys reading, writing, painting, cooking, and nature in her free time.

Additional Authors

Michael Welch joined the BLD program in September 2015 as the Assistant Instructor. Born and raised in Traverse City, Mich. Welch graduated from MSU with degrees from Lyman Briggs in Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics and from the College of Natural Science in Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS). He completed his CLS internship at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. As Assistant Instructor, he helps teach laboratory skills in hematology, transfusion and transplant medicine, as well as introductory CLS principles. He also helps teach in the advanced BLD laboratories.

Extended Abstract

The delivery of lab courses in life science online has been evolving with the development of new technology.  Over the years, online teachers have overcome many barriers to provide students hands-on experiences that are comparable to face to face labs by using mailed-out home lab kits, developing virtual labs and etc.  The emerging digital microscopy has brought teaching laboratories online to a new level.  Digital microscopy is a new trend of tool in any medical science subject dealing with morphology such histology, pathology, hematology, and microbiology.   Here we demonstrate integration of digital microscopy in an interactive recorded session to teach hematology lab online to medical laboratory students. 

The traditional hematology slides are digitized by scanning them with ViewsIQ software, Panoptiq.  The software relies on an optimally functioning microscope to clearly define cells, inclusions, artifacts, and textures within the scan.  A high magnification objective that also has a high numerical aperture is used to guarantee high resolution and contrast.  The program can digitize any stained or unstained slide.  It can digitize peripheral blood smears, bone marrow preps, gram stained microbiological specimens, etc.  The digitized specimen allows users to observe the specimen at different magnification level just like observing the traditional slides under the traditional light microscope except the images are always clear with high quality.

The delivery of a hematology lab using digital microscopy in a recorded session includes three phases.  The first phase is the instructor’s “show and tell”.  In this part of the recorded session, the instructor demonstrates the process of identification which is recorded by Camtasia that captures all onscreen activities and the audio.   Instead of showing a static image at a time, the whole didactic process of exploring, discovery and identification of specific structures, cells or tissues on a slide is recorded by Camtasia and showcased to the students.  Next, students “learn by doing”.  In the middle of the recorded session after “show and tell” by the instructor, students can be directed by the “Interactive Hotspot” feature of Camtasia to the website where they themselves can observe the web-based digitized slides and interact with the peers as well as the instructor.  As the same slide can be accessed by different individuals at the same time, students can learn interactively and collaboratively.  The instructor can comment on students’ work by annotation as well.  Finally, students’ learning can be assessed as they listen to the recording by using the quiz feature of Camtasia.  The snapshot function of the software program coming with the digital microscopy allows the instructor to take any image from the slide at whatever magnification to make questions to test students learning.   The student’s grade from the quiz of the recorded lab session can be linked to the gradebook of the learning management system.  This way, student’s learning is accessed in a timely manner.

Digitization enables students to access authentic hematology microscopic specimen online.  The combined use of digital microscopy with a screen-capture software and an online learning management system has created a self-paced, inquisitive and collaborative online learning environment, leading to effective learning with more depth.  Such model of learning can be applied to any online life science lab course using microscopes.