The Educational Use of Social Networking Sites Among Medical and Health Sciences Students: A Cross-Campus Intervention Study | BMC medical training


Our cross-campus study builds on the use of SNSs that can be transformed by faculty and students of medical and health sciences into an authentic digital footprint where they can work collaboratively within the medical community. Overall, about one-third of the student cohort actively used SNS for education, while nearly half of the cohort found SNS to be effective and useful for education. The meteoric rise in the adaptation of global digital applications is clearly fueling the use of SNS, as approximately 45% of the world’s population uses some type of social network daily. [16].Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest were our study cohort’s three most popular SNS choices for their learning activities. Similarly, the study inferred that students most often used SNS to conceptual learning, link with community practice, e-portfolio and collaborative learning. Surprisingly, posting ideas and opinions in real time was the least preferred learning modality among the study cohort. This could be attributed to the weak writing and publishing skills of the students who need additional training in critical evaluations and micro-reflections.

In this study, Twitter was found to be the most popular SNS for medical education. By following hashtags, tweeting and retweeting, students used Twitter to communicate with their peers, tutors and professors. The use of Twitter has fostered a variety of informal learning activities, such as self-directed, independent, and collaborative assignment work [17]. He has contributed to the formation of online learning communities in an interprofessional environment of cyberspace, promoting flexible and collegial learning outside of regular working hours, especially among medical students. [18]. Junco et al., investigated the impact of Twitter on college students in 125 pre-health disciplines and found that Twitter had a positive impact on both student engagement and assessment grades. [19]. On the other hand, a study by Scot et al., revealed a downward trend in the academic use of Twitter over time, especially in anatomy education. [20]. Several possible explanations for this decline have been offered, including social media fatigue, the changing nature and content of social media platforms, boredom and frustration with a particular platform over time, and the constant desire of the younger generation to move to a more recent and trendy platform. , like switching from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and TikTok [21].

The second most popular SNS in our study was Instagram, a smartphone and tablet-based program with an image-sharing service, which posts images asynchronously using a plethora of digital filters. [22]. Due to its video and photo uploading and sharing capabilities, it is becoming more and more popular in human anatomy, radiology and dental education. [23, 24].

The majority of Instagram users are young students between the ages of 18 and 29, who frequently upload informal material related to peer-to-peer study. Although Instagram has its own terms of use, which prohibit the posting of illegal and confidential content, it still lacks quality control, privacy, and ethical and legal regulations for posting sensitive or personal information. Educators have the opportunity and responsibility to guide and engage young minds with quality assured, professional information in SNS [20].

Pinterest, the third most popular SNS in our study, is an online image creation and sharing service with the ability to create educational resources [25]. A classic example of an image-sharing app on Pinterest is, a radiology education website that allows users to browse a host of images of a specific disease with insightful notes and tips. . A large majority of students use Pinterest to pin (add images), repin, comment, describe, and upload images and flowcharts for academic pursuits.

In our study, CoM-UoS had the most active users of SNS for education (453/514; 88%) compared to other colleges. This could be due to the fact that CoM-UoS students were the most represented, as well as their ever-changing affinity for SRS. A 2014 study at CoM-UoS on the use of a Facebook page in anatomy education found a similar effect, with the majority of students embracing it and finding it useful for learning. [26]. This was followed by another study in 2016 where the authors reported that YouTube and Facebook were the highest ranked SNSs used by CoM-UoS students. [27]. CHS-UoS senior students received the highest average ranking for their degree of online application connectivity. Similarly, CoM-UoS and USIM students showed the greatest agreement with the statement ‘I found useful social networking sites for educational purposes‘. Another interesting observation from our research was that students over the age of 27 had higher average rankings than their peers. This could be due to the nature of education, especially clinical training and increased exposure to medical applications in patient care, hence more empowered to use SRS professionally based on experiences [28]despite the fact that the process is unsupervised and unstructured.

From our study cohort, responding to the statement, ‘medical students need supervision and guidance to properly use social networking sites for educational purposes‘, 63% of students agreed on the need for professional training in the educational use of SNS. There is no disagreement with this conclusion, although some medical schools offer a structured course or module on the educational use of SNSs. [14, 15], the use of SNS in education is still inconsistent and fragmented. Additionally, there have been numerous reports of medical students acting in unprofessional or questionable ways, breaching privacy, compromising confidentiality, and blurring personal and professional lines, all of which have had uncertain legal ramifications. [29, 30]. The live workshop was held to support students and raise awareness about the use of SNSs in medical education, including Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Additionally, the educational intervention highlighted the emerging concept of e-professionalism, “attitudes and behaviors (some of which may occur in private settings) reflecting traditional paradigms of professionalism that manifest through digital media “. [31]. The interventional workshop has, according to the vast majority of students, improved their knowledge of social networking sites for medical education as well as Web 2.0 technology and its applications in the digital sphere. We believe that for successful use of SNS in medical education, a thorough review of all SNS and professional development programs for faculty, healthcare professionals, and students is necessary. Finally, all stakeholders must have access to institutional regulations to implement, maintain and control a safe and legal digital policy.

Study limitations

This study has few potential limitations. First, there was a small sample of students who attended the online session. Despite the small sample size, the engagement and response rates were satisfactory. Second, limited access to various SNSs, as determined by their local laws and regulations, may have influenced the study results. Third, a selection bias in the attitudes and practices of respondents who used SNSs were different from nonrespondents who potentially did not use SNSs. Despite these limitations, we believe that this study achieved its goals of measuring the use of SRS among medical and health science students and guiding them for better educational application.


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