Two small but intriguing Canadian research studies have documented the wide gap between teachers and students and educator users and non-users in their perceived value of social media as learning tools in medical and health education.
The studies were presented at this year’s annual meeting of the Canadian Conference on Medical Association (#CCME16) and the research involved two leading physicians in the social media and digital health world in Canada, the University of Ottawa (uOttawa)’s Dr. Aliraza Jalali and the University of British Columbia (UBC)’s Dr. Kendall Ho.
The uOttawa study conducted by medical education researcher Dr. Safaa El Bialy with Jalali evaluated feedback from 72 medical professors and 63 second-year medical students on their use of popular social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook etc.).
The UBC study presented by second-year medical student Karan DSouza evaluated feedback from 270 health educators at 8 global institutions on their attitudes towards the use of social media in teaching.
The uOttawa study found the medical students were about three times more likely to use the social networking sites for medical education than the professors (67% vs. 23%).
While 94% of students said they felt the sites facilitated learning, only one third of the professors said they used such sites in their teaching practices.
Despite established social media platforms being more than a decade old, El Bialy and Jalali noted “some of the educators did not even know about social media use for educational purposes” and many expressed concerns that such sites were distractions and promoted time wasting.
Just as the uOttawa study documented the gap between medical students and professors, so the UBC study showed sharp differences in perspectives between educators who use social media in the classroom and those who do not, in a variety of countries.
That study documented that health educators globally have concerns about the lack of guidance and support for using social media for educational purposes and also the lack of evidence showing the value of such tools. Even among those using social media in teaching, only 11% said they had received training in using social media for teaching.
DSouza and Ho also echoed the uOttawa study in their introduction when they noted “students have already adopted social media informally to share information and supplement their lecture-based learning.”
They also documented that adoption of social media is not consistent within faculties, even at the same institution.
Both research teams provided suggestions on how the use of social media in the classroom could be encouraged and facilitated.
(Artwork by @Aga_ta_ta on display at CCME16)