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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Prof-in-a-Box: using internet-videoconferencing to assist students in the gross anatomy laboratory

Stephen J Moorman

Author Affiliations

Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 675 Hoes Lane West, Piscataway, NJ 08854 USA

BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:55  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-55

Published: 15 November 2006



The optimal learning environment for gross anatomy is the dissection laboratory. The Prof-in-a-Box (PiB) system has been developed where an anatomist using distance-learning technologies 'helps' students in a dissection laboratory at a different site.


The PiB system consists of: (1) an anatomist in his/her office with a computer and video camera; (2) a computer and 2 video cameras in the lab; (3) iChat AV software; (4) a secure server to host the PiB-student 'consultation'. The PiB system allows the students and faculty to interact via audio and video providing an environment where questions can be asked and answered and anatomical structures can be identified 'at a distance' in real-time. The PiB system was set up at a prosected cadaver and made available for student use during 'office hours'.


25–30% of the students used the PiB system. Anatomical structures were identified, questions answered and demonstrations given 'at a distance' using the system. Students completed an optional questionnaire about the PiB system at the end of the semester. Results of the questionnaire indicate that the students were enthusiastic about the PiB system and wanted its use to be expanded in the future.


Many of the functions of a faculty member in the gross anatomy dissection laboratory can be performed 'at a distance' using the PiB system. This suggests that a geographically dispersed faculty could assist in providing instruction in the dissection labs at multiple medical schools without needing to be physically present.