Virtual reality in anatomy: A pilot study evaluating different delivery modalities

Nicolette S. Birbara, Claude Sammut, Nalini Pather

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Technologies such as virtual reality are used in higher education to develop virtual learning resources (VLRs). These VLRs can be delivered in multiple modalities, from truly immersive involving wearable devices to less immersive modalities such as desktop. However, research investigating perceptions of VLRs in anatomy has mainly focused on a single delivery modality and a limited-demographic participant cohort, warranting a comparison of different modalities and a consideration of different cohorts. This pilot study aimed to compare perceptions of highly immersive and less immersive VLR deliveries among anatomy students and tutors and evaluate the impact of prior university experience on students' perceptions of VLRs. A skull anatomy VLR was developed using the Unity® gaming platform and participants were voluntarily recruited to assess highly immersive stereoscopic and less immersive desktop deliveries of the VLR. A validated survey tool was used to gather perceptions of both deliveries. Most participants agreed that both VLR deliveries were interesting and engaging and provided an immersive experience. Anatomy students perceived the stereoscopic delivery to be significantly more useful for understanding (P = 0.013), while anatomy tutors perceived the desktop delivery as more useful. A degree of physical discomfort and disorientation was reported by some participants for both deliveries, although to a greater extent for the stereoscopic delivery. The stereoscopic delivery was also found to be more mentally taxing than desktop delivery. These results suggest that desktop VLR delivery may minimize the risk of discomfort and disorientation associated with more immersive modalities while still providing a valuable learning experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-457
Number of pages13
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2020


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