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Online Anatomy course strives to offer more than just the bare bones

Stephanie Attardi smiling for the camera in anatomy lab

Always an inquisitive mind, Stefanie Attardi’s interest in anatomy dates back as far as she can remember.

“I remember being afraid of skeletons at Halloween and my mom told me there was one inside of me,” Attardi explained. “It made me interested in what else was under my skin.”

This passion for active learning was fostered when she completed her undergraduate degree at Queen's University. There, Attardi found her focus shift from becoming a physician, the path she always envisioned herself taking, to teaching.

“As I learned more about the profession, I realized I actually preferred to teach because I could spend more time with people and teach them about their bodies.”Stefanie and friend

Given her zest for all facets of the learning experience, it is no surprise that Attardi’s PhD research at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry is focused on determining whether or not anatomy courses can be taught online effectively to students.

The aim of the unique project is to ensure that students can have a learning experience that remains uncompromised by the fact that they are being taught a hands-on course outside of the classroom. 

For Attardi, the project is both exciting and terrifying for the same reason: it involves real students, taking the course in real-time, for real marks.

As part of the study, students view each lecture live through video conferencing. They have the ability to ask and answer questions, just as others attending the course within the classroom setting would. There is also a hands-on lab component, where students taking the course online are able to examine parts of human body up-close using virtual 3D models.

Attardi notes that the interactive nature of the study is a perfect fit for the collaborative environment of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.

“At Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, graduate students are taken care of by everyone,” Attardi said. “It’s not just my supervisor, all of the professors in the department are invested in making me a better teacher and researcher.”

This attitude trickles down all the way to the undergraduate students with whom Attardi works, and all who are excited about being a part of the project and are eager to contribute.

Ever immersed in the process of learning, it is those students that Attardi thinks of when she speaks of her long-term goals for her work.

“I hope by the time I’m done we’ll have an idea of how to make the online course the best it can be for students. We should never really be satisfied as teachers; we should always be trying to make things better.”