Why dissect a human body when you can do it virtually?
Advances in virtual reality technology will soon put questions such as this into sharp focus, with virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift, set for public release next year.
The technology is sure to transform film and gaming. And it has the potential to revolutionise social networking, with Facebook buying Oculus for $2 billion in March.
Illustration: Matt Golding
Meanwhile, educators are watching closely, with some believing the technology could lead to a radically new, and powerful way to learn.
Indeed, the educational possibilities of virtual reality seem boundless: students could go on virtual exchange programs, or fly through space. They could experiment with dangerous chemicals, visualise complex data or dive into a human body.
"Experiential learning is a really big and exciting opportunity that has been around for a long time," said Professor Michael Phillips, who teaches about educational technology at Monash University. "But we've been restricted in what we can do, build, visit and touch. In creating virtual environments, there's no limit to what we could do with students."
The virtual reality headset immerses its user in an interactive world, so that images on the display appear life-size and 3D. The images also sync up with movements of the user's head, creating an impression that the user is moving through a virtual space.
Australian university students are already dabbling with the latest virtual reality offerings, including the Oculus Rift, after a batch was made available to developers.
At Melbourne University, agriculture students are virtually tending to cattle and crops; building design students are virtually inspecting buildings overseas and physiotherapy students are toying with virtual images of bodies to learn about posture.
Medical faculties are also showing interest, with the hope that this could lead to surgery simulations for surgery trainees.
Questions still remain over how virtual reality could be effectively used for teaching in schools.
Student teachers at Monash University are on the case, with Professor Phillips' students studying ways to use the technology in the classroom.
And developers are keenly building educational programs for schools, where there is increasing appetite for educational gadgets or video games such as Minecraft.
Monash University Professor Jon McCormack, who is the director of high-tech research hub called SensiLab, said developers in his lab were building a virtual life-size replica of Cambodia's 12th century temple Angkor Wat – a program they planned to pitch to schools teaching about the Angkor/Khmer empire.
Professor McCormack said the simulation, which is based on architectural drawings, archaeological evidence, and evidence about flora and fauna from site visits, would enable students to experience what the site might have been like as a thriving metropolis.
"You can walk around the temple, which is the real size of the temple. And when you start to see thousands of people streaming in and out, you really start to get a sense of what it must have been like then.
"It gives you a sense of realism, of what it was like to live there, that is probably unequalled to any other technology that people have made before."
But with the educational benefits for students still yet be proven, RMIT's Faculty of Education Adjunct Professor Helen McGrath questioned: is it genuinely educational or just novelty?
"I recall going to a conference 12 months ago and a presenter was waxing lyrical about the Google glass and how wonderful it will be for educational purposes," she said. "And then suddenly, it disappears."