By Christopher Ugo Oseh, MBBS
December 22, 2020
Health care professionals, especially physicians, rely on continuing medical education to upgrade their knowledge and skills and stay current with advancements in their medical practice. Recent developments in internet technology and social media platforms, combined with the need for social social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are accelerating the evolution from traditional medical classrooms and conferences to digital education. Medical educators will soon find it imperative to adapt their curriculum and educational content to attract a new generation of digital learners.
This post will outline some benefits and features that make digital media like Twitter and podcasts suitable for medical education.
5 Essential Digital Media Tools for Medical Educators
- Microblogging: It is the act of creating and posting short interactive, educative, and engaging content on social media channels. This content provides value to a target audience and attracts followers to engage with a post by commenting on it or sharing it.
Microblog posts can be in the form of short texts, images, or short videos. Medical educators use microblogging to interact with their students or learners who follow them on social media. For microblogging to be effective, the content has to be mixture of images, videos and texts that are posted consistently.
- Twitter: Twitter has approximately 145 million daily users, 12% of Americans get their news from Twitter, and people watch 2 billion videos on Twitter daily. This data indicates that Twitter is one of the favorite social media channels and a suitable medium for microblogging because of its large user base and high level of engagement with content as well as the following unique Twitter features that medical educators can take advantage of:
- Hashtags: Physicians and medical instructors can subscribe to a particular hashtag to obtain information about a topic of interest. For instance, a neurologist interested in finding the latest news on stroke can decide to follow #stroke on Twitter. One can also follow medical boards, institutions, and thought leaders to stay abreast of the latest news and share it with peers and students.
- Mentions: Learners can find answers to pertinent questions from a specific medical instructor by adding @ (Twitter handle) to a question posted as a tweet. Mentions help initiate a conversation between a learner and a medical instructor or subject matter expert.
- Tweets: A short post of less than 280 characters promotes an interactive communication between Twitter users.
- Twitter Group: Groups allow the aggregation of individuals with common interests to exchange information in real time with one another and with an instructor.
- Podcasts: A podcast is a downloadable audio recording for specific users that is stored in an accessible website. According to Statista, podcast listeners in the United States increased from 20% of the adult population in 2006 to 75% in 2020 and are projected to reach 160 million by 2023, making it a useful digital tool to exploit for medical education.
Here are a few ways medical educators are using podcasts as teaching tools:
- By recording pre-lecture summaries to introduce a course
- By creating short audio lectures that can be listened to during a medical provider’s busy day
- By recording a companion, audio series for lecture courses
- By providing audio answers to frequently asked questions in a lecture
Podcasts allow learners to save time by helping those on tight schedules to learn on the move—even while commuting or traveling.
- Video Streaming: Recent advances in video conferencing software tools have made it easier for instructors to hold virtual live classes and continuing education programs that can also be recorded for learners to review again later. Video streaming activities merged with the use of appropriate visuals enable physicians to learn new topics and procedures remotely from an expert instructor.
To motivate and engage video participants, livestreamed activities offer opportunities for:
- Short presentations/demonstrations with interactive question and answer sessions between instructors and students in different geographic areas
- Face-to-face interaction among learners
- Participatory group break-out rooms
- Private interaction with a tutor
- Visual Learning: The use of well-designed images with clearly labelled, embedded text can provide a learning experience for virtual student learners that is more memorable than classroom instruction. To maximize the impact of images for medical education, a mixture of image types including charts, graphs, and infographics should be utilized. Images of people and/or patients can also be paired with case studies to tell stories that remote learners relate to and that bring a topic to life.
Adapting to Digital Learning
Continuing medical education is a fundamental requirement for medical providers to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for staying up-to-date in daily practice, and medical educators should be looking to acquire an in-depth knowledge of how recent digital learning methods can be utilized for medical education. Twitter, for example, provides a channel to access and exchange new information through microblogging, while podcasts, video streaming, and visual learning tools present new information for doctors in easy-to-access, downloadable formats.
Digital learning methods are expanding the reach of medical institutions and subject matter experts by providing medical professionals with opportunities to learn remotely from anywhere in the world, often at a pace learners can control.
The first annual national conference presented by the Innovations in Media and Education Delivery (iMED) Initiative at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is being held on January 22, 2021 for medical educators, content creators, and anyone who consumes digital education. Select the link to learn more: Digital Education: Twitter, Podcasts, Visuals, and Beyond
Dr. Christopher Ugo Oseh is a medical doctor, content strategist, and a freelance medical writer for small businesses in the health care industry. He also writes blog posts and manages the blogs of busy physicians.
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