The evolution of social media as a learning tool: how connected are final year UK physiotherapy students? - Abstract

K. Mansell, Gerard Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Relevance: This research report is highly relevant to the theme of practice in a digital age as it studies the attitudes, including opportunities and barriers, of Physiotherapy students using social media to aid their professional development. It studies both their access to learning by means of social media, as well as providing initial ideas to aid teaching staff in engaging students with online learning. Purpose: The aims of the study were to determine whether Physiotherapy students use social media for study, how they use it and their attitudes to using it for learning. The results can help lecturers and clinicians, advising them about guidance to give students regarding online learning. It may also provide information about the use of social media within course programmes, providing a base for future research. At present there has been research into how online environments can be used in education, however this is still a developing area of research within Physiotherapy with little exploration to determine if, and how many, students currently engage with this form of learning tool. Methods/analysis: Ethical approval was gained from Coventry University ethics committee. A cross-sectional survey approach was used. An online questionnaire was administered to 95 final year students studying on the Coventry University undergraduate Physiotherapy course, using convenience sampling to accommodate for time constraints and regulations. The questionnaire ran for 2 weeks; students received reminders about the survey during this time. Online submission maintained respondents’ anonymity. Data was analysed using SPSS v22 and Microsoft Excel. Results: The response rate was 57.9%. Data showed that respondents are using social media for learning, however its use is limited compared to personal use. YouTube was the most popular site, with 74.5% of respondents using it for learning, although Twitter was used most frequently. Students appear to be using social media passively, viewing information rather than actively contributing to discussions. The biggest challenges to using social media for learning were not knowing what to believe (38.2%) and saying the wrong thing online (32.7%). Discussion and conclusions: Findings from this study highlight that final year UK Physiotherapy students are using social media for learning, but are not actively engaging with it, which could affect knowledge retention. Students favour different social media sites for study compared to personal use; this must be considered if integrating social media into an aspect of a course. Impact and implications: This study forms the basis to future research regarding which types of social media are most beneficial when used as a learning tool and the main barriers that need to be overcome to encourage higher levels of engagement. Clinicians and lecturers can use this information when planning to deliver course content and encouraging students to participate with continuous professional development independently, outside of course structure. It also has implications as to the type and amount of support that may be needed in order for challenges to be overcome to aid engagement levels.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberPOS045
Issue numberSupplement 1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

This is a published abstract only. The abstract is of a paper given at The 4th European Congress of the European Region of the World Confederation of Physical Therapy (ER-WCPT) Abstracts, Liverpool, UK, 11-12 November 2016


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