Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Europhysiology 2018 (London, UK) (2018) Proc Physiol Soc 41, C114

Oral Communications

How much do pre-clinical medical students utilise the internet to study physiology?

D. O'Malley1, D. S. Barry2, M. G. Rae1

1. Physiology, University College Cork, Cork, Cork, Ireland. 2. Anatomy, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland.


Physiology remains a central focal point of pre-clinical medical teaching1,2 with didactic lectures still the core instructional methodology utilised by most institutions3,4. However, universities are now faced with ever increasing numbers of ‘Generation Connected' (Gen C) students who are reliant upon the internet and social media platforms for both their intellectual and personal needs. This development is liable to challenge traditional physiology teaching as students seek ways to integrate their online life with their educational experience. Anecdotal evidence suggests that medical students utilise both online resources and social media relatively extensively to facilitate and propagate their understanding of Physiology but little actual research has been conducted to determine to what extent this occurs. The initial aim of the current study was therefore to determine how first year medical students from both direct entry (DEM; 72 students) and graduate entry (GEM; 67 students), medical streams utilise internet resources and social media to facilitate or supplement their Physiology learning. For the study, students completed an anonymised 24 item survey which collected information on both student demographics and on their use of online learning Physiology learning resources. We determined that 97.8% of all students surveyed had used internet platforms to source Physiology information, with 89.2% doing so at least once per week. The vast majority (76.3%) used YouTube as their primary source of learning. 69.8% of students stated that they interacted with social media (e.g. Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.) in excess of 12 times per week, with 84.7% of students indicating that they had used social media platforms to discuss course related issues with their peers. Significantly, 94.2% of all students indicated that they would first search for an answer online if they did not understand something in Physiology, with 70.8% and 50.4% of respondents signifying that they would not contact the instructor either by e-mail or in person, respectively, if they were still unsure. Somewhat worryingly however, only 31.4% of students ever "fact-checked" Physiology information obtained from online sources (e.g. by using textbooks, papers and/or instructors). Overall, our findings have revealed that Gen C pre-clinical medical students utilise both social media and a variety of internet resources extensively to facilitate their study of Physiology. As such, it suggests that the blending of elements such as YouTube videos into Physiology teaching would provide both a means of enhancing student engagement with, and consequently, the understanding of, the subject as well as providing academic and ethical oversight of such online content.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements