Digital technology for anatomy students

Anatomy students at La Trobe University are ditching heavy text books and using digital technologies to learn about the human body, and early indications suggest the results are paying off.

La Trobe is piloting using integrated Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to teach a Second-Year anatomy subject to help improve spatial awareness, explorative learning and accessibility.

The University also made the technology available for all other Year 2 and 3 anatomy students at the University’s Melbourne (Bundoora), Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga campuses.

These include students studying Allied Health and Science degrees such as physiotherapy, orthotics, prosthetics, podiatry and biomedicine.

Head of the Anatomy Discipline Dr Aaron McDonald said the AR technology in particular gave students affordable and convenient 24-hour access to highly detailed 3D anatomy images via their phone, iPad or computer.  VR is used on campus with headsets provided.

“La Trobe anatomy students learn from working with skeletons, models, VR, human specimens and AR. The beauty of AR is that students can take it anywhere,” Dr McDonald said.

“Augmented Reality allows students to visualise and manipulate anatomical structures and develop a deep understanding. You can superimpose anatomical structures over a peer who can perform movements along with the app, to better understand muscle function. It is a great resource for both team work and self-directed learning” Dr McDonald said.

The cost for using the AR technology is $10 per student, compared to more than $100 for a single textbook.

“This technology is really helping improve access to learning. Students can study extremely high-quality 3D images with associated text, clinical cases and quizzes while at home, on public transport, anywhere,” Dr McDonald said.

Many students are embracing the tool and say it’s really helped their grades.  Dr McDonald said if the pilot study found AR and VR assisted students’ progress and learning experience, the technology will be expanded to other anatomy courses.

Media Contact: Kathryn Powley | 0456 764 371 |