Neuroanatomy is perceived as a difficult topic and impairments in the understanding of neuroanatomy have been linked with a reduced confidence in managing neurology patients by health care trainees and professionals. Online web-resources could facilitate learning intricate neuroanatomical concepts, especially in the context of diminishing teaching hours. However, despite the abundance of neuroanatomy web-resources, students continue to report difficulties in learning the subject. Hence, we have sought students’ perception regarding the limitations of existing resources in the specific context of learning the neuroanatomical pathways. Deciphering such limitations could have clinical implications as facilitation of learning could improve confidence in clinical situations.
A systematic search for neuroanatomy web-resources was performed using custom search strings. A stringent inclusion/exclusion criteria generated 159 web-resources. This list was reduced to 24 resources using a scoping review criteria where exclusion was based on 1)histology-only information, 2)lack of interactivity 3)partial information,. This was narrowed down to 13 and subjected to and “educators’ evaluation”, which was informed by educational / cognitive learning theories. Five UCC anatomy educators ranked these resources based on their usefulness in the context of student-learning of spinal pathways. The top three web-resources, were subsequently compared and ranked by undergraduate students (42 participants) based on how well various features were employed to aid in learning spinal pathways (Likert-questions).
Educators’ evaluation revealed that all the web-resources analysed had limitations with regards to educational and cognitive learning outcomes. Students ranked the following pedagogical domains in terms of their usefulness in aiding neuroanatomy-learning,: 1)clarity of explanation, 2)explanation of key principles, 3)step-by-step drawing of pathways, 4)usage of cross-sectional images, 5)online quizzes and feedback, 6)radiology images, 7)animations, 8)3D computer models 9)linkage of neuroanatomy with disciplines such as neurophysiology, neuroradiology, 10)solving neurological cases and 11)various features helping in 3D visualization and orientation of brain structures.
Our study has identified a number of web-resource features that are useful with regards to student learning experience while the educators’ perspective provides an optimal educational framework. This will inform instructional design of future resources to better achieve learning outcomes for undergraduate students and reduce the prevailing neurophobia.