Case Western Reserve medical students continue learning with HoloLens

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Following the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns, Microsoft and Case Western Reserve University worked together at a frenetic pace to prepare, update and ship 185 headsets to students

Quick read

➨ All 185 first-year students from Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine, who are located across the US and Canada, are learning remotely through HoloAnatomy
➨ HoloAnatomy features a complete 3D software suite of all of the organs, vessels and systems that comprise human anatomy
➨ Initial study findings showed comparable exam performance between medical students who learned anatomy using traditional methods and those who used HoloAnatomy

The story

Case Western Reserve University in the US is maintaining the education of its first-year medical students during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic through the use of Microsoft HoloLens and its own MR app, HoloAnatomy.

All 185 first-year students from Case Western Reserve’s School of Medicine, who are located across the US and Canada, are learning remotely through HoloAnatomy, which was launched in late 2019 as the first third-party application for the Microsoft HoloLens device.

HoloAnatomy features a complete 3D software suite of all of the organs, vessels and systems that comprise human anatomy.

It was developed for the new Health Education Campus (HEC) of Case Western Reserve and Cleveland Clinic. All first- and second-year medical students have participated in lessons using HoloAnatomy since the HEC opened late last spring.

According to Case Western Reserve, initial study findings showed comparable exam performance between medical students who learned anatomy using traditional methods, such as dissecting cadavers, and those who used the HoloAnatomy MR app through HoloLens headsets.

Following the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns, Microsoft and Case Western Reserve worked together at a frenetic pace to prepare, update and ship 185 headsets to students.

Erin Henninger, executive director of Interactive Commons, a university-wide entity that helps faculty, staff and students use a range of visualisation technologies to enhance teaching and research, said: “I think we’ve always seen mixed reality as an opportunity to extend education outside traditional boundaries. We can now be mixed-reality learners anywhere, as long as we have a HoloLens and WiFi.”

“We knew that this was a pandemic or would become one soon, so we knew we had to be able to find a way to do this at home, or at a lot of different homes.”

Mark Griswold, a professor of radiology who is one of the faculty leaders for the HoloAnatomy project

Mark Griswold, a professor of radiology who is one of the faculty leaders for the HoloAnatomy project, continued: “We knew that this was a pandemic or would become one soon, so we knew we had to be able to find a way to do this at home, or at a lot of different homes. We had [already] been working in parallel for about the last four-and-a-half years on cloud-based infrastructure.”

Griswold said the team is also anticipating that this setup could continue into the future.

“This is really more in line with the spirit of what’s being proposed here at Case Western Reserve and elsewhere—learning from anywhere and more online and modular. If this were to continue all the way to fall semester, we’ll be ready.”

Case Western Reserve students are enthusiastic about MR as a learning tool.

Student Sanjana Madishetty commented: “There’s such a huge difference between dissecting a cadaver and this. Both are valuable, but with HoloAnatomy, you can literally see through structure if you lean in … and then come back out and the organ is still intact.”

Another student, Kevin Zhai, added: “I thought it was great, the best of both worlds, because we had the body to ourselves, in a way, but we also had [anatomy professor] Dr Wish-Baratz there to describe it. Standing in my own apartment, I could peer into the body cavities and spend as much time in there as I wanted.”

Image: Anatomy professor Susanne Wish-Baratz teaching a HoloAnatomy class on 26 March 2020
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