3D-ifying OpenStax Textbooks with Visible Body

What happens when you combine OpenStax’s free textbooks with Visible Body’s interactive 3D models? A lot of learning. 

OpenStax partnered with Visible Body for a webinar delivered by Customer Engagement Team member Mary Ness. Visible Body’s Customer Engagement Team provides one-on-one support and training for instructors who use Visible Body products in their classroom, helping them make the most out of their Visible Body experience. 

Webinar participants were treated to a demonstration of how OpenStax-correlated courses within Visible Body Courseware can enhance the learning experience, followed by a great Q&A session. You can watch the webinar through OpenStax here

In this blog post, we’ll summarize the main points from the webinar. Let’s dive in!

What is OpenStax?

If you’re not familiar, OpenStax is a nonprofit that has published over 45 free, peer-reviewed textbooks spanning math, science, social studies, humanities, and business—and yes, that includes anatomy and physiology and biology textbooks. Since its first textbooks were published in 2012, OpenStax has saved students a whopping $1.7 billion in textbook costs! 

OpenStax is an open educational resource, or OER, which means their textbooks are published with an open license that allows users to modify and revise content as they please without traditional copyright restrictions. 

Visible Body is proud to be an OpenStax Ally! 

What is Courseware? 

Courseware is Visible Body's teaching and learning platform. It can be used as a standalone LMS or integrated with Blackboard or Canvas. 

In Courseware, instructors can assign Visible Body content from our suite of apps, including Human Anatomy Atlas and Visible Biology. Students and instructors also gain access to Visible Body’s mobile apps, making it easier to study on the go. 


Flashcard in Visible Biology

With Courseware, instructors don’t have to start from scratch when building a course. Courseware features premade courses, including courses that correlate with popular textbooks like OpenStax Biology or OpenStax Anatomy & Physiology!

An OpenStax correlated course includes content such as…

  • Assignments based on textbook chapters
  • Links to views and models that directly correlate with chapters
  • Quizzes, including short answer, dissection, and autograding multiple choice quizzes
  • Premade Flashcard Decks 

With an OpenStax correlated course, you can combine a fantastic textbook with interactive 3D models that will keep your students engaged with the material as they introduce and reinforce information. 

The correlated course also comes with tutorials, guides, and troubleshooting tricks for you and your students so you can feel confident about using new technology. 

Visible Body’s models

Visible Body Courseware gives you and your students access to models of over 6,000 different anatomical and biological structures. Designed for users to explore concepts and structures, these models allow students to gain awareness of spatial relationships. Looping, interactive 3D animations let students dive into topics like muscle actions and photosynthesis. 


Interactive heartbeat model included in Courseware

As Mary pointed out, “Students want to have visuals that are interactive and high quality. The students who are in your classroom today have grown up with access to gaming, and they want to have [a similar] experience. You as an instructor want to have accurate information and information that makes sense for the way that you teach and is also flexible." 

Visible Body models are engineered for exploration, facilitating self-directed learning. By utilizing the related content box, students can make connections between ideas—for example, a student could go from the photosynthesis model to the plant cell model to the chloroplast-level photosynthesis  animation, connecting the dots between structures and processes.

Adopting Visible Body

Mary stressed that switching to Visible Body doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your teaching approach; you can use Visible Body to enhance how you already teach. For example, you can link out to your favorite content in Courseware. If you’re interested in a premade course, you can use that premade course right out of the box or customize it. The Customer Engagement Team can support you every step of the way. 

"You don't have to figure out how to make this a useful tool for your students. We've done a lot of that work, and it's a matter of you deciding what makes sense for the way you teach and what your goals are,” said Mary.

GAL viewHead and neck view in Human Anatomy Atlas 2023+'s Gross Anatomy Lab.

Mary encourages instructors and students to start slowly; it can be overwhelming to adopt something totally new and plunge into it. She suggests that instructors begin by assigning assignments with low point value to get students to dip their toes into the wealth of 3D content. 

"If points aren't associated, the students who need to do that work the most often don't do it. But using Visible Body Courseware and our set-up questions and quizzing, it's really simple for you to be able to even offer a low stakes quiz to get students utilizing this content as a study tool,” said Mary. 

Many instructors have replaced their dissection activities with Human Anatomy Atlas’s Gross Anatomy Lab views, while others use models to prepare students for dissection on “the real thing.” Visible Body recently added dissection offerings to Visible Biology with more on the way, giving biology instructors a virtual dissection option too. 


Through Courseware, you can access all sorts of premade teaching tools, like our bank of free lab activities. With augmented reality labs, A&P students can get out of their seats and get engaged with content in a new way. 

Flashcards are one of Visible Body's most popular features. You can make your own Flashcards using 3D views, or access one of the dozens of free Flashcard Decks on our website. Even our premade Flashcards are customizable!


Webinar viewers were super engaged, and the Q&A session opened up some great discussion. Let’s run through a couple highlights! 

Can students download the textbook for offline work? 

OpenStax textbooks can be easily downloaded as PDFs, which is great for students with unreliable internet access. 

Visible Body requires internet connectivity on the computer, but mobile content does not require an internet connection, making it even easier to study on the go. 

Do instructors have to use premade quizzes?

Our premade quiz bank is always expanding, but if you can’t find exactly what you want, you can edit questions or simply make your own quiz. 

As an instructor, you have full control over the questions, point value, number of attempts, and other important elements. Through the timed quiz function, you can even allot different students different amounts of time, which is helpful for students who require double time accommodations on quizzes and exams. 


A dissection quiz.

How does Courseware compare with competitors?

When it comes down to it, Visible Body sets itself apart through interactivity and customization options in addition to the fact that our content is made by biomedical visualization experts who ensure medical accuracy. 

We know you want to make the best decision for your classroom, so we’ve got you covered with blog posts that compare our products to several popular A&P tools. Check them out for details!

How does deep integration in Canvas work? 

Students can click a link on a Canvas course’s left hand bar to access Courseware, and a window will open up within Canvas where students can complete assignments and access 3D models. When a student completes a quiz in Courseware, the grade automatically appears in the gradebook on Canvas!


How long does it take to set up a class in Courseware? 

It depends on you! You could take a premade course, add assignment due dates, and be ready to go in a matter of minutes, though Mary suggests spending an hour or so walking through the content to make sure you have a solid grasp of all of Courseware’s great features. Our Customer Engagement Team can meet with you to walk you through course setup and support you every step of the way. 

What's the difference between buying Courseware with OpenStax or just buying Courseware?

Nothing! Correlated courses are free; you can import them into your Courseware account with a few clicks. 

Students can buy access for $49.99 per year through their bookstore, or the institution can buy for their students using group pricing. Through Courseware, students get web version access and also mobile apps for A&P content. Contact your sales representative to learn more! 

Try it for yourself!

Get a free instructor trial of Courseware and explore how Visible Body can enhance your classroom. 

When you adopt Courseware, you know that Visible Body has your back: the Customer Engagement Team supplies customized, one on one training, and customers rave about our support team, which helps you with any technical issues you may face. 

For inspiration on how you can use Visible Body in the classroom, check out these blog posts: 


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Are you an instructor? We have award-winning 3D products and resources for your anatomy and physiology or biology course! Learn more here.