Virtual Anatomy: expanding veterinary student learning

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Traditionally, there are three primary ways to learn anatomy outside the classroom. Books provide foundational knowledge but are limited in terms of object manipulation for deeper exploration. Three-dimensional (3D) software programs produced by companies including Biosphera, Sciencein3D, and Anatomage allow deeper exploration but are often costly, offered through restrictive licenses, or require expensive hardware. A new approach to teaching anatomy is to utilize virtual reality (VR) environments. The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and University Libraries have partnered to create open education-licensed VR anatomical programs for students to freely download, access, and use. The first and most developed program is the canine model. After beta testing, this program was integrated into the first-year students' physical examination labs in fall 2019. The VR program enabled students to walk through the VR dog model to build their conceptual knowledge of the location of certain anatomical features and then apply that knowledge to live animals. This article briefly discusses the history, pedagogical goals, system requirements, and future plans of the VR program to further enrich student learning experiences.