The computer revolution has already done much to drastically change the face of education in the world and with high speed (instant!) internet, programming to allow for immediate file sharing and a more savvy set of consumers, education is set to be completely revolutionized by the digital age. Such steps are already taking place, with more and more people achieving their degrees through distance education and schools offering online courses to a younger and younger audience. The digital age has some serious advantages for the education system, not the least of which being the fact that students can learn more at their own pace, explore content which interests them and access cutting edge content.
So it goes for basic education and different degrees, but there are still some programs which have yet to jump on the band wagon and one of them is the health and medical education field. Social media though could be opening up the medical education field to the world of the internet, through the idea of turning passive learners into active listeners (as stated by Emergency medicine physician Mike Cadogan). Social media allows for the ability to learn by participation and to let doctors, nurses and care aids share their experiences (carefully, without breaking confidentiality), share innovations in the field, and support each other in the face of things like death and illness. And of course, the same would go for students in these fields who would be able to access better case studies, see exactly how people are working in their chosen field and get advice. In short, social media builds communities in the medical field; something which many people benefit from.
The theory is certainly sound enough, but it could still be a bit ahead of its time. In the University of Notre Dame Australia School of Medicine (Sydney), Associate Professor Mavis Duncanson and Dr. Zelda Doyle began looking at using social media as a way to augment teaching in the fields of Population and Public Health. Twitter was the main platform used to let students know about resources and issues. This first run tanked as many students found that they didn’t need to study population and public health in clinical medicine. (This could be indicative of other problems in the health care education system too, but we won’t get into that!)
Twitter was also used by Dr. Zelda to pass around alerts about communicable diseases to her students in rural clinical School. However, this case also showed something surprising: many graduate entry students don’t even use Twitter! This has made many reconsider and think that perhaps a combination of Twitter and other forms of social media would work best to help students get more on the ground learning. Furthermore, time spent on the project is marked and the two professors are experimenting with different forms of social media to help students out.
If nothing else, students have been and are encouraged to dip into existing social media streams in order to keep up with new ideas and to provoke discussion.
At the moment, the idea of implementing more social media in the fields of health education is still pretty new and it could be a while before it is used successfully, but the system offers great promise. The ability to get cutting edge information, ideas and innovations as soon as they hit the public eye is definitely useful for any aspiring medical professional, plus the idea of connecting in a community is something which all health professionals are encouraged to do so that they can share their problems and successes. This entire means that social media in education will be a given; the only thing to look out for is in what form and how heavily it will be used.
Lena Paul is a medical school graduate who is an enthusiastic blogger and holds an editorial position in www.Prepgenie.com , a test prep provider that offers exam preparation courses for UKCAT, GAMSAT, PCAT and UMAT.