Medical Schools Take Learning Online with Biolucida During COVID-19

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Biolucida for Medical Education is a learning platform that serves high resolution microscope slides to students without the need for a physical microscope.


As universities around the world move to online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, educators suddenly need to find ways to create authentic learning experiences for their students. Biolucida for Medical Education creates that experience by giving students studying at home the same experience they would have in a lecture hall or sitting at a microscope.


At the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, one of Europe’s most esteemed medical schools, Professor Christoph Schmitz teaches students neuroanatomy of the brain. Normally, Prof. Schmitz uses an on-site virtual microscope system to showcase histological slides that contain relevant brain regions. But when the Bavaria senate closed universities due to COVID-19, his department had to figure out a plan for the upcoming semester.


With the help of MBF Bioscience, Prof. Schmitz was able to move his collection of 3D brain sections off campus and to the cloud, giving him the ability to teach his classes online using Zoom for audio, and using Biolucida to share his slides with the 460 students enrolled in his class — nearly half of whom connect remotely from places as far away as Chile, Taiwan, and the United States.


“Moving our slides to a cloud-based Biolucida system allowed me to teach without any limitations or restrictions,” explained Prof. Schmitz. “There was no need for the students to be onsite, so nobody missed the class. Despite all the COVID restrictions, and despite the fact that our university buildings were closed, they were all able to take this class.”


First year medical student Laura Gajdi agreed that the class went very well. “A lot of students think it’s even better on the cloud. It was more flexible,” she said. “We had no problems with any connections, and it was very practical to always have access to the software for learning and for studying the slides. Another advantage is that you could choose how much time you want to spend with one slide — that’s not possible in the classroom.”


Normally, students only have access to the slides via the onsite system installed at the university.  But by taking the collection into the cloud, Prof. Schmitz gave his students the opportunity to access them at any time — something that Gajdi and the other students took advantage of, especially as they prepared for the final exam.


“Our students have previously asked us to move the entire thing into the cloud because they were bound to the times they could use the system on-site — a few hours a week, when we could open the room,” explained Prof. Schmitz. “If the room was closed, they couldn’t access it. That doesn’t work with the students’ schedules. They want to be able to access it on a Saturday evening. With the cloud solution they can do it 24/7, which is a huge advantage for them.”


After the successful experience with moving his course fully online with Biolucida, Prof. Schmitz is planning for his next semester, and is inviting other departments, including the immunology department, in his university to utilize this new resource.


“Basically, this is a great opportunity for every type of instruction or research that requires microscopic inspection of tissue sections,” says Prof. Schmitz. “It could be forensics, or even in clinical meetings where you need to look at sections. As long as you can share your screen and you have the resolution you need, it’s great.”


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