A-level: virtual microscope

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Subject Bio

A collection of slides covering animal and plant tissues in the school curriculum.

Background and nature of the task
The A-level slide collection consists of 93 sections, including animal and plant tissues arranged into three sets (light boxes). The collection was chosen to illustrate the material which would be studied for A-level and GCSE biology in the UK. The sections are presented through a virtual microscope that models the functions of a conventional light microscope so it can also be used to teach microscopy. Each section has an active descriptive legend that acts as a tutorial, by shifting the stage directly to the features described. A short quiz is also included as a teaching tool.

Instructions on how to use the microscope are given in the help file. Background reading material on histology and microscopy is provided in two OpenLearn units:

Introduction to histology

Introduction to microscopy

The slides were loaned by a number of partners including De Montfort University, Cambridge University, Milton Keynes NHS Trust and Oxford Brooks University. The images were captured and annotated at the Open University.

The self assessment quizzes below include a variety of different question-types, covering both the histology of the tissues and background questions on their function from the A-level syllabus. There are 33 questions on animals (100 marks) and 15 questions on plants (50 marks). Each question allows two tries. Full marks are given for getting the answer correct on the first attempt and half marks on a second attempt. Hints are shown after the first attempt and explanations or correct answers are shown after the 2nd attempt. 

Duration and pattern of use
This activity should take from 1-2 hrs up to 7 hours if you look at each slide.

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