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Inside the Lab Digital and computational pathology, Training and education, Microscopy and imaging, Software and hardware

Aurora mScope: High-Value Higher Education

sponsored by Aurora mScope Inc.

In a previous article, Erik Yeo introduced Aurora mScope Education – an online, cloud-based digital pathology learning tool purpose-built for university and college courses with a significant microscopy component. Here, he answers additional questions regarding the system’s real-world utility.

Remind us of Aurora mScope Education’s key features…

Aurora mScope Education is a toolset designed specifically for microscopy-based instruction. We developed it in collaboration with academic pathologists and educators and we continue to refine it by working with experts worldwide. Its capabilities are unmatched by any other whole slide image (WSI) viewing system. Its key features include:

  • Compatible with virtually every legacy slide scanner format globally from the last 15 years
  • Highly flexible annotation facility; dynamic images allow course developers to attach unlimited content to WSIs and provide students with a fully interactive self-learning system
  • Permits traditional microscopy manipulations (zoom, scan), WSI rotation, and simultaneous examination of multiple WSIs
  • Accessible to any number of people simultaneously, logging in from anywhere using any device at any time
  • Less costly than standard methods of microscopy education

What makes mScope ideal for online pathology education?

It supports both instructor-led and self-directed courses; this flexibility makes it ideal for today’s microscopy education environments, which typically contain a mixture of self-evaluation and instructor-led education. Importantly, mScope users can view virtually any format, including the proprietary formats of most leading scanner manufacturers, DICOM images, JPG, PDF, Word files, and more. That means students can access the full range of material relevant to a given case: X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, pathology, and so on. Furthermore, mScope allows simultaneous, side-by-side comparisons of these different images. You can’t do that with a microscope!

In particular, mScope’s interactive capability is an extremely valuable tool. For example, it allows educators to annotate WSIs with a series of self-test questions. The question format is unrestricted – multiple-choice and long-form answers are accommodated. If needed, the module can be structured so that an incorrect answer opens annotations that direct students to supplementary material, whereas a correct answer allows progress to the next question. Thus, educators can create a multi-layered series of self-learning opportunities, each with extensive annotation and links to further reading. And the mScope system is highly flexible; educators can change it at will – for example, by adding or removing slide images and by updating or otherwise editing the annotations and links.

Furthermore, mScope supports effective organization of large quantities of course material; hundreds of slide images can easily be organized under various headings, from date to class to tissue type. Storing material in folders and subfolders means it’s easy to provide access to any student with a password. Note, too, that mScope has the capability to facilitate conferences or classes by generating a link to material that is to be accessed on a given day and time.

Finally, mScope is an excellent audit tool; it records how much time a class or individual student has spent on a given WSI, which parts of the WSI they examined, at what magnification, and so on. This information can help educators guide students in their development.

How does mScope Education differ from standard educational or web-based meeting platforms?

Our system is purpose-built for provision of online education in courses with a significant microscopy component. Although standard platforms have screen-sharing capabilities, they’re not up to the task; their image quality is inadequate for dynamic, detailed examination of microscopic features, especially over slower connections. Video-conferencing tools can accommodate video clips or simple, static images, but none of them have mScope’s ability to traverse an image and zoom in or out as required. And, as far as we know, none of the big players in web-based meeting platforms are focusing on this market need at all – it’s too niche for them. Aurora mScope, by contrast, is a custom-made digital version of a multi-headed microscope designed to facilitate both online/distance-learning classes and traditional in-person learning.

What kinds of clients use mScope Education?

Major universities across North America and Europe use our system. Examples include Johns Hopkins University, the Michener Institute of Education, and the University of Virginia. Some of our clients have been using mScope for 10 years now; the fact that they have not engaged alternative vendors throughout that period, and that the system has been used by multiple generations of educators, is testimony to the quality of our product. Aurora mScope is also used by pathology associations to support conferences or online e-learning; the system creates a real-time link that makes specialized material available to conference attendees on demand, with annotations, for a specified period of time. One of mScope’s advantages here is its flexibility – all kinds of images, including radiology, pathology, and lab results, can be made accessible to attendees via a single viewer.

Increasingly, our experience is that older clients are returning to us to seek more training as new generations of employees who will need to use mScope join their institutions. We have a phenomenally low client churn rate; it seems that once people start using mScope, they stay with it! It may help that we don’t sit still – we are always working to improve our product and it shows.

Is mScope’s utility limited to pathology?

No – it is applicable to any course with a significant microscopy component, including modules in medicine, dentistry, and biological sciences. Different clients put our system to use in different ways. In a few cases, medical schools have integrated the Articulate e-learning platform with mScope; Articulate provides the textual course material and mScope provides the microscopy instruction.

Does mScope prepare students for the lab?

Aurora mScope Education readies students for real-world digital pathology by educating them within a fully digital environment using the same WSI viewer as Aurora’s clinical platforms. Image viewing, image interpretation, disease staging, and interpretation of associated relevant information – are all capabilities that are contained within the platform.

Erik Yeo is CEO and CMO at Aurora mScope and Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

 

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