Anatomical self-efficacy of undergraduate students improves during a fully online biology course with at-home dissections

Jacob P. Youngblood, Emily A. Webb, Logan E. Gin, Peter van Leusen, Joanna R. Henry, John M. VandenBrooks, Sara E. Brownell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Student enrollments in online college courses have grown steadily over the past decade, and college administrators expect this trend to continue or accelerate. Despite the growing popularity of online education, one major critique in the sciences is that studentsare not trained in the hands-on skills they may need for the workforce, graduate school, or professional school. For example,the Association of American Medical Colleges has recommended that medical schools evaluate applicants on their motorskills and observation skills, yet many online biology programs do not offer opportunities for students to develop these skills. Inon-campus biology programs, students commonly develop these skills through hands-on animal dissections, but educators havestruggled with how to teach dissections in an online environment. We designed a fully online undergraduate biology course thatincludes at-home, hands-on dissections of eight vertebrate specimens. Over three course offerings, we evaluated changes infour student outcomes: anatomical self-efficacy, confidence in laboratory skills, perceptions of support, and concerns about dissections.Here, we describe how we implemented at-home dissections in the online course and show that students taking thecourse gained anatomical self-efficacy and confidence in multiple laboratory skills. Based on open-ended responses, the studentsperceived that their experiences with the at-home dissections facilitated these gains. These results demonstrate that athome,hands-on laboratories are a viable approach for teaching practical skills to students in fully online courses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-139
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Anatomy
  • Distance education
  • Laboratory kit
  • Online learning
  • Zoology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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