Introduction: The structure/function of the cranial nerves is a core topic for dental students. However, due to the perceived complexity of the subject, it is often difficult for students to develop a comprehensive understanding of key concepts using textbooks and models. It is accepted that the acquisition of anatomical knowledge can be facilitated by visualisation of structures. This study aimed to develop and assess a novel cranial nerve animation as a supplemental learning aid for dental students.
Materials and Methods: A multidisciplinary team of anatomists, neuroscientists and a computer scientist developed a novel animation depicting the cranial nerves. The animation was viewed by newly enrolled first-year dental students, graduate entry dental students (year 1) and dental hygiene students (year 1). A simple life scenario employing the use of the cranial nerves was developed using a cartoon-type animation with a viewing time of 3.58 minutes. The animation was developed with emphasis on a life scenario. The animation was placed online for 2 weeks with open access or viewed once in a controlled laboratory setting. Questionnaires were designed to assess the participantsí attitude towards the animation and their knowledge of the cranial nerves before and after visualisation. This study was performed before the delivery of core lectures on the cranial nerves.
Results: Our findings indicate that the use of the animation can act as a supplemental tool to improve student knowledge of the cranial nerves. Indeed, data indicate that a single viewing of the animation, in addition to 2-week access to the animation, can act as a supplemental learning tool to assist student understanding of the structure and function of cranial nerves. The animation significantly enhanced the studentís opinion that their cranial nerve knowledge had improved. From a qualitative point of view, the students described the animation as an enjoyable and useful supplement to reading material/lectures and indicated that the animation was a useful tool in understanding the cranial nerves.
Conclusion: Overall, these findings indicate that an animation demonstrating the cranial nerves in a simple, everyday functional scenario may act as a learning aid in the study of cranial nerves.