Use of social media to create a personal learning environment in a professional issues class.


The use of social media and social networking sites (SNS) has seen exponential growth in recent years. Most discussion in college education includes raising awareness of social media hazards and avoiding risky behavior. Formal physical therapy (PT) education focuses on critical inquiry and life-long learning to augment academic and professional development. The use of SNS may promote desirable educational features to augment formal learning including individualized, flexible and variety of engagement with academic, evidence-based topics.

The purpose of this case report is 1) to describe the implementation of SNS use in development of a personal learning environment (PLE) as part of a professional issues (PI) course for first year DPT students; 2) assess student ability to evaluate media content and its impact on academic learning and professional practice; and 3) assess faculty beliefs of SNS to promote academic knowledge.


PI I is a course to introduce students to the field of PT and begin the process of professional development including core values and professional behaviors. The SNS assignment was used with 2 PI I cohorts in 2015 and 2016. The assignment required students to identify several different SNS and follow, analyze and reflect on the information. The students posted in a weekly online journal to describe topics and evaluate its use as a source for evidence-based practice. Finally, the students reflected on the use of SNS as a method of personal and professional growth.


113 students participated in the 2015 and 2016 cohorts with positive results. Results indicated the students:1) interacted with a variety of SNS including APTA, APTA affiliated, institutional and private providers; 2) explored topics including healthcare trends, advocacy issues, student mentoring, and intervention techniques; 3) were successful at analyzing the SNS/topic to determine if the information was current, accurate, authoritative and reliable/relevant to PT education and practice; 4) considered SNS effective to expand their knowledge of PT and augment their academic preparation.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education

This case report demonstrated that student utilization SNS is an effective method to enhance academic instruction and expose novice DPT students to a variety of PT topics in an individualized, flexible and self-directed method. Students created a PLE and explored areas of interest along with areas of PT that were novel and new. Topics allowed for class discussion of professional issues relevent to student interest and current trends in the field. Formal analysis and discussion of media topics helped students critically analyze media for personal and professional growth. As use of social media is rapidly expanding in all realms of healthcare practice, student use of SNS for knowledge acquisition may allow for future life-long learning practices and augment evidence-based practice and inquiry.


Cheston, C., Flickinger, T., & Chisholm, M. (2013). Social media use in medical education: a systematic review. Academic Medicine. 88(6), 893-901.

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsnatas, A. (2011). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: a natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. Internet and Higher Education, doi:10.1016

Greyson, S., Kind, T., &b Chretien, K. (2010) Online professionalism and the mirror of social media. Journal of General Internal Medicine 25(11): 1227-1229.

Hoglund, LT (2015). Mobile devices and software applications to promote learning in a musculoskeletal physical therapy class: A case report. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 29(2), 54-61.

Tess, P. (2013). The role of social media in higher education classes (real and virtual)-a literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, A60-A68.

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  • Control #: 2526968
  • Type: Platforms
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Dr. Kristen Karnish
  • Keywords:

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