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Bones of the Skull: A 3-D Learning Tool – Background information

Please note: Although it continues to work The Bones of the Skull was created in 1999 and has not been updated since.

Virtual reality. One thinks of immersion in a computer-generated world, where navigation is controlled through head gear and goggles and wired gloves.

At the Information Commons, our advanced educational technology facility located in Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, project work is directed to a different type of virtual reality. Using QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) technologies developed by Apple Computer, Inc., staff members have been creating digital models that can be integrated with instructional multimedia products authored for CD-ROM or the Web, and the only control mechanism the user needs is a mouse. The potential applications for the technology to the health sciences are most evident with anatomy.

In 1998, the Information Commons partnered with faculty member Jerald Moon, Ph.D. from the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology to develop an interactive, computer-based tutorial to help students learn the anatomy of the human skull. After nearly two years of off-and-on development, the product is complete for Windows and Macintosh, and distribution began in early June 2000.

The Bones of the Skull: A 3-D Learning Tool received the 1999 Sandoz/Slice of Life Student Software Development Award and recently won first place in the CD-ROM category of the 2001 Instructional Computing in Dentistry Competition, sponsored by the American Dental Education Association. The program was developed to help students learn the features and bones of the human skull and has two essential features:

  • A collection of QuickTime VR (virtual reality) object movies of the skull and its individual bones. Students are able to rotate the bones and view them from multiple perspectives. At any point, the user can click to view labeled close-ups.
  • An interactive textbook containing high-quality 2-D images, descriptive text, and many interactive activities to encourage mastery of the content.

Product demo

Screen Shots.

If you’d like to see some of our anatomical models on-line, please visit our QuickTime Object VR Gallery.

Ordering information

The Bones of the Skull is available to order free of charge in downloadable format. To request your copy, please go to our Order Form page and complete and submit the corresponding form.

System requirements

The Bones of the Skull is a product you download to your computer. It is not a web-based product. It does require that you have QuickTime installed, available free from Apple.

License agreement information

Our license agreement in its full detail can be viewed on-line. To summarize its salient points:

  • This product is available for free via download for use by educators, educational institutions, and other nonprofit organizations.
  • Duplication for internal use by educators and their institutions is permissible, as long as we are notified of your intentions to do so, and how many copies are intended. We’ll post some “examples” of how people are using our product in months to come.
  • “Resale” or “redistribution” beyond your institution or organization is not permissible. You may not rent, lend, or lease this product to anyone beyond your institution or organization. If they want it, they can come to us! After all, it’s FREE, and all we’re asking in exchange is some information for how the product will be used, its audience, and number of copies in circulation.


Creation of the Bones of the Skull educational product and this web site would not have been possible without the efforts of several staff members during the past three years. Here are our team members:

Marilyn Dispensa
Software and VR models construction

Michelle Holschuh Simmons
Web site design and construction

Jerald Moon, Ph.D.
Anatomy content review

Dan Bell
FTP site administration

Zachary Gorman
Object VR gallery web site design

Jim Duncan, Coordinator
Information Commons and Electronic Services
Hardin Library for the Health Sciences
The University of Iowa
June 2000