The role of social media in undergraduate pharmacy education

Alyson Brown @alyjbrown and Brian Addison @BrianAddison75 –
Robert Gordon University

Methods: semi-structured focus group were conducts with undergraduate pharmacy students. Participants were asked: what is social media, how do you use social media, what is your experience of using social media in university, what (dis)advantages are there to using social media in pharmacy education, and, finally, how else could social media be used in pharmacy education? Ethical approval was granted by the school of Pharmacy and Life Sciences at [the University].

Results: Six focus groups were conducted with a total of thirty-nine undergraduate pharmacy students in December 2013. The majority were female (n=29) and represented all four years of the undergraduate Master of Pharmacy course. Definitions of social media included terms such as interacting, communicating, keeping in contact, sharing/obtaining information, socialising. Uses of social media included communication, education, current affairs, photos and events with specific naming of Facebook, Twitter, Xbox Live, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, MySpace, Bebo, Tumblr, Google+, Vines and Pinterest using iPad, phone, or laptop. Participants found social media, ‘good for group work’, following pharmacy and health related topics, groups and leaders on Twitter, creating YouTube content  for assessments or ‘in lectures to pass the time’. They found it easy to use, ‘communicating with lecturers without the normal barriers’ from the, ‘comfort of your own home.’ However, concerns were raised, ‘it’s worrying – fear of it being used against you in a fitness to practice issue’ as it was recognised, ‘how quickly something can go viral and be seen by so many.’

Discussion: In line with other UK-based studies, 1,2 this research demonstrates the widespread use of various forms of social media, both personally and professionally, amongst undergraduate pharmacy students. Whilst pharmacy students wanted to see increased use of social media to support their education, they expressed concerns over how their online persona would be perceived by their profession particularly with regards to Fitness to Practise. The ability to use social media to encourage interactive lectures and communication between educators and students conflicted with students expressing the wish for a more private online profile.