Engaging students with virtual slides in histopathology classes using the Slice Question Tool

May 25, 2023

The Slice Question tool empowers educators to ask feature identification questions on virtual slides. The tool can be used to assess student learning, engage students in the classroom, and provide immediate feedback to each student.

Professor Nicodemus Tedla recently put the question tool to test with his histopathology students at UNSW Sydney. While reviewing common disorders of the pituitary and adrenal glands, Professor Tedla employed a case-based learning style where students began with a description of a presenting patient. After exploring symptoms and test results, students reviewed a virtual slide from their “patient”.

While exploring the microscopic characteristics of a pituitary infarct, students were prompted to identify four key features of the slide that would confirm their diagnosis. Students worked individually or in small groups and were seen discussing the slides between themselves, with support from their tutors.

Students answering drop a pin questions

The tool works by educators marking out the correct location of the features on the image. Students can then navigate the slide, zooming in and out and panning across to review the tissue. They then answer the questions in real-time by placing a pin to reflect the location of the feature. Technology is used to provide immediate feedback to each student as to whether their response is correct or incorrect and after placing their own pin they loved seeing the positions of the pins placed by their peers.

The activity gave Professor Tedla insight into his students’ histopathology knowledge and after loading the anonymised location of all the student pins on the main screen, it prompted interesting and unexpected discussions to address the locations of incorrect pins. For example, while attempting to identify an area of dead and dying blood vessels a group of students incorrectly identified areas of torn or folded tissue which were artefacts related to the preparation of the slide.

Identify the dead and dying blood vessels in the anterior pituitary by dropping a pin.
Correct pins are located in the green region. Areas marked in orange reflect artefacts of the tissue.

With class sizes of over 100 students, Professor Tedla typically seeks student engagement by prompting individuals to answer questions. However, with limited class time, it is impossible to hear from every student. The question tool provided all students with the opportunity to participate in the learning process and enabled Professor Tedla to gain insight into the level of understanding of even the quietest students and let him instantly tailor the feedback for that student cohort.

The question tool helped me get the students engaged and own their learning experience. It was instrumental in identifying common misconceptions and allowed me to provide instant tailored feedback. The whole exercise was great fun for both the students and myself! I highly recommend it as an innovative teaching resource.”    -  Professor Nicodemus Tedla

The tool is a valuable resource for educators who are looking for authentic ways to assess student learning, engage students in the classroom, and provide feedback to each student. It is particularly useful forteaching histology and histopathology, as it allows students to practice identifying features on virtual microscopy images.

The Question tool is available to all academic members using Slice. Visit our knowledge base for more information and you’re welcome to get in touch with Dr Stephanie Dowdell to discuss trying out the question tool in your own classes.

Stephanie Dowdell