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Digital Microscopy


At the Faculties of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and Sciences, many programmes use light microscopes in their histology and pathology practicals. These practicals provide knowledge and insight into the disciplines of Cellular Biology, Histology, Pathology, Physiology, Anatomy, and Immunology among others. The microscopy practicals are inextricably linked to lectures and seminars; The structures under examination are always related to their function or pathology. There is much to be gained from making digital microscopy available within these traditional microscopy practicals:

  • Rare and/or fine specimens will be usable by groups of students. Many of the slides currently being used for teaching will age and become discoloured, and specimens get lost or damaged. This often means that few specimens are available, or that they are of inferior quality.
  • Differences between the individual specimens complicate plenary discussion and feedback.
  • Traditional light microscopy practicals are usually directed from a printed manual that allows for no interactivity. This is where digital microscopy, in combination with the right teaching methods, can add value.
  • There is only limited interaction between traditional microscopy practicals and lectures, seminars, and assessments. More interaction between these elements will stimulate and motivate students. Digital microscopy is especially useful in the areas of feedback and assessment.

Digital microscopy enables small-scale and engaging education, a teaching method strongly encouraged by Utrecht University in BaMa 3.0. Besides the introduction of a ‘virtual microscope’ (a browser application that allows students to navigate across and zoom in on slides remotely), integration into a dynamic electronic learning environment is possible, which will stimulate and engage students.


1. To deploy digital microscopy in courses at Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and Biology in such a way as to:

a. better teach connections between tissues, organs, or structures and their functions and/or pathologies, the better to contextualise the subject matter;

b. better integrate various educational visions, like Blended Learning and Flipping the classroom, and to create more opportunities for small-scale, engaging education (BaMa 3.0 educational vision by Utrecht University);

c. make teaching microscopy more stimulating and effective by offering it in combination with formative testing and feedback;

d. break microscopy practicals into smaller sessions that can be assigned any time, anywhere as prep work for a seminar or lecture;

e. more clearly and more thoroughly integrate the teaching of microscopy (knowledge of and insight into the subject matter) into curricula, as it is vitally important to make students understand the usefulness and importance of these skills to their development;

f. instruction and practice in virtual microscopy before practicals enable more effective and efficient teaching of practicals, because the students are better prepared, which frees up teachers to answer their more advanced questions.

2. To expand the current user base of early adopters into a motivated and knowledgeable group of teachers who can help develop virtual microscopy and instruct others in its use.