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Release: Nov. 1, 1999

UI-developed anatomy CD wins first prize in national competition

IOWA CITY, Iowa — An interactive CD-ROM developed at the University of Iowa for students studying the anatomy of the skull has won first prize in a national competition for health science software.

"The Bones of the Skull: A 3-D Learning Tool," created by Marilyn Dispensa, formerly a graduate assistant at the UI’s Hardin Library’s Information Commons; Jim Duncan, head of the Information Commons; and Jerry Moon, a UI associate professor of speech pathology and audiology, was awarded first place in the Sandoz/Slice of Life Student Software Development Competition. The award carries a $1,000 prize.

Dispensa produced the instructional product as part of her master’s project in instructional design and technology while working at the Information Commons. Since graduating in December 1998 she has worked at the UI as a programming specialist with ITS Academic Technologies. A $5,000 Instructional Improvement Award from the UI Council on Teaching in 1998 funded equipment used to produce the CD-ROM’s virtual reality anatomical models.

The CD provides a "multi-media, three-dimensional virtual reality tutorial of the bones of the skull," Moon said, adding that the skull CD will give professors a much-needed instructional resource for enhancing their anatomy classes.

"Students are always looking for ways other than the standard, flat textbook to learn about anatomy," Moon said. He said students at the UI are fortunate to be able to study actual skulls provided by the College of Medicine’s department of anatomy, but for students at smaller colleges and universities without medical schools the CD will be the next best thing.

Even for students who have seen and touched real skulls, the CD will be "a valuable and portable study tool with tutorials and drill questions in addition to the skull images," Moon said.

The CD will be available for Macintosh and Windows and should be ready for distribution by spring 2000, Duncan said.

Organizers of the competition said the "instructional design and use of innovative and new technology" gave "Bones of the Skull" the edge over the other nine competitive submissions. "We felt it showed faculty how to design things nicely and could provide good ideas for others," said Suzanne S. Stensaas of the University of Utah, who was one of the judges.

The Sandoz/Slice of Life Student Software Development Competition was started with funding from Sandoz, a former pharmaceuticals company, and the award has been made annually for the last 10 years at the Slice of Life/Computers in Healthcare Education Symposium.