Social media in health professional education

Social Networking Sites (SNS) have undergone exponential growth over the past few years. The high levels of use of SNS by tertiary students makes them an attractive tool for educational institutions. The goal of this study was to identify health professional students’ use and behaviours with SNS, including students’ perspectives on possible applications within health professional curricula. Students enrolled in an undergraduate physiotherapy program were invited to participate in an anonymous, online questionnaire at the end of 2012. The survey was composed of 20 items, gathering demographic data, information on current use of SNS, and opinions regarding the application of SNS into education. Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered. A total of 142 students, from all years of study, completed the online questionnaire. Only two participants were not current users of social media. Facebook and YouTube had been utilised for educational purposes by 97 and 60 % of participants respectively; 85 % felt that SNS could be beneficial to their learning experience. Only five respondents were not interested in following peers, academic staff, clinicians or professional associations on Facebook. Four key themes emerged: peer collaboration, need for separation between personal and professional realms, complimentary learning and enhanced communication.

Students desired to make educational connections via SNS, yet expressed a strong desire to maintain privacy, and a distinction between personal and professional lives. Educational utilisation of SNS could improve communication speed and accessibility. Any educator involvement should be viewed cautiously.