MANUSCRIPT: Evaluating the use of twitter as a tool to increase engagement in medical education
Social media is regularly used by undergraduate students. Twitter has a constant feed to the most current research, news and opinions of experts as well as organisations. Limited evidence exists that examines how to use social media platforms, such as Twitter, effectively in medical education. Furthermore, there is limited evidence to inform educators regarding social media’s potential to increase student interaction and engagement.
To evaluate whether social media, in particular Twitter, can be successfully used as a pedagogical tool in an assessment to increase student engagement with staff, peers and course content.
First year biomedical science students at Monash University completing a core public health unit were recruited into the study. Twitter-related activities were incorporated into the semester long unit and aligned with both formative and summative assessments. Students completed a structured questionnaire detailing previous use of social media and attitudes towards its use in education post engagement in the Twitter-specific activities. Likert scale responses compared those who participated in the Twitter activities with those who did not using student’s t-test.
A total of 236 (79.4%) of invited students participated in the study. Among 90% of students who reported previous use of social media, 87.2% reported using Facebook, while only 13.1% reported previous use of Twitter. Social media was accessed most commonly through a mobile device (49.1%). Students actively engaging in Twitter activities had significantly higher end-of-semester grades compared with those who did not [Mean Difference (MD) = 3.98, 95% CI 0.40, 7.55]. Students perceived that the use of Twitter enabled greater accessibility to staff, was a unique method of promoting public health, and facilitated collaboration with peers.
Use of social media as an additional, or alternate, teaching intervention is positively supported by students. Specific use of micro-blogs such as Twitter can promote greater student-staff engagement by developing an ongoing academic conversation.