Introduction: Modern-day medical healthcare education is rapidly moving away from the clinical setting and into the digital realm. Advancements in technology have provided new possibilities to create interactive learning tools that are not constrained by physical location. This has led to the development of mixed-reality applications that can be used to provide interactive experiences away from the traditional environments.
Aim: In order to enhance medical and healthcare education in rural and remote communities, modern innovative technologies were trialled as potential teaching methods. In particular, the difference in learning anatomy between 3D-models on tablet (TB), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) were examined to determine the influence of each mode on comprehension of complex structural medical anatomy. In addition, participant perceptions of each learning mode and the susceptibility to adverse effects was assessed.
Methodology: Participants were randomly allocated to one of the three learning modes: VR (n=20), AR (n=17) and TB (n=22) to receive a 10-minute pre-recorded lesson on the anatomy of the skull. Following that, a 20-question multiple-choice test was completed. Subject perceptions of each learning mode and any adverse effects exhibited were recorded immediately after the lesson.
Results: In the written anatomical assessment, participants received mean (SD) scores of 12.85 (4.4) utilising VR, 12.53 (4.2) utilising AR, and 13.3 (4.0) utilising the TB device with no significant difference recorded (p=0.863). Subjects rated the learning experience highly in all 7 domains across each mode. The VR-group experienced significant increases in headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, general discomfort and double vision, when compared to the AR or tablet groups (p<0.05 for all).
Conclusion: Modules that utilise 3D-anatomy models through mixed-reality devices are a valid method for learning complex anatomy, are well-received by students, and would be suitable to educate, or enhance the skills of health providers in rural and remote communities.