Friday, June 21, 2024

Investigating the perceptions & challenges of using social media for informal e-learning and collaboration within the NHS trust

This blog post looks into those perceptions, both good and bad of why people want to resist or embrace social media within the medical e-learning environment within the NHS.

By Liz Azyan , in Interviews , at May 19, 2010 Tags: , , , ,

This blog post is sponsored by Semantix Ltd.

We often ask ourselves, why do certain organizations choose to embrace or completely reject social media? For those who use social media everyday for every little part of their lives, its easy to argue that its completely relevant and people should give it a chance and embrace it. I obviously fall into this category – guilty as charged!

But after conducting research in various public sectors, I’ve learnt that there are very real challenges in adopting social media and taking that step can be a really big one for certain organizations. This blog post looks into those perceptions, both good and bad of why people want to resist or embrace social media within the medical e-learning environment within the NHS trust.

Medical Professionals perceptions & challenges

  • “Trainees and students have been annoyed not being able to collaborate with other people in the Trust.
  • “There is a strange relationship between the trust and postgraduate. How does it fit it and the Trust needs to pick up on the ongoing cost.”
  • “We need to give access to social networks because its how people network.”


  • “From education point of view  – there are undergraduate committees, if you give them a paper, they would say this is totally useless, we want honest feedback from them. If there was an anonymous feedback system on the website then its honest.”


  • “Undergraduates are used to is having a link to their calendar. Lectures come up on their calendar. Try to setup something like that on the site. Google calendar. They can download to their phones or iPods. I can’t go onto the network from the phone. Trust should support cost if there is a need for it.”


  • “One of the worries, the informal e-learning that is already out there, the concern is the solution to the problem that we have, is that the trainees can’t access it because its been block. We need to have conversations about how we can provide this access.”


  • “They ask practical questions. I think they need that networking like Facebook where they can actually do it. How we give access to them and how we are going to do that is what we are concerned about.”
  • “Moderated site – the problem is about access. People had to go home to their own computers at home and not on site. As a trainee, you are risking having less honest conversation.”
  • “What we would like to go on the website, is teaching programs. The postgraduate have teaching programs that would be good to have on the website.“
  • “If we want to push the teaching program through the calendars, then we should do that. Then we can go the trainees to go on that. About linking in the phone, that is already available within the NHS.”


  • “We need to marry an IT environment and what is a university, academic requirement where there are issues around security and capability. Suggest the academic requirement should be separated form the business/patient network environment.”


  • “The priority from IT is about the patient not about the teaching. Who is the customer? The patient, not the academic.“


  • “Significant IT infrastructure issues about clinical data about opening up networking sites and undergraduates.”


  • “It’s not about having a separate network. What would be nice is to provide patients with access around security.”


  • “You can setup Virtual Local Area Networks (VLAN) – not mature yet. It is how it is being setup in the county. And hopefully the NHS will move towards that model. (Oxford example) VLAN would mark public access or private access. It allows you to see within the environment and has gateways to JANET or a direct connection. It’s all about cost for these things to happen. We don’t have the money. Its going to cost money. We need to come toward some sort of compromise.”


  • “VLE was used after it was initiated by the nursing staff. Moodle was just recently used. It’s because of the VLE that triggered this. We did plug the VLE project into the prioritisation and turned out in the quadrant as a ‘don’t do’. Looking at everything we want to do and which is being prioritised. When we talk about a Deanery with a certain budget, you can try what you want.  The trust has got to give the approval.”


Learner’s perceptions & challenges


  • “There’s no time to collaborate, you have no time to sit at the computer and do these things.  You call your friend then your friend tells you to look on the forum because they’ve seen it there.”
  • “It could also be used to notify another doctor that a patient prefers to see another doctor. And seize opportunities.”


  • “Lots of people don’t open their email. I open, read, close it, that’s it. When you get sent group emails, every single person gets the email like form Kings College, it’s irrelevant. Everybody puts together a list of people who doesn’t get onto the list just gets lost.”


  • “There’s a problem with Trust. Some of us in the beginning still didn’t logon to the network because its so difficult.  And you have your own email address. There’s a problem with accessibility. You have to spend 15 minutes to talk to them to rectify the problem.”


  • “Work with a system of somebody who gives you formal certificate and done teaching basically. With facility for feedback and reflection and having targeted resources for different grades and levels of people. Probably a module that is more difficult and effective so learners might be a risk for an employer to see how you’re doing.”


  • “You don’t want somebody getting frustrated and a little usability testing would be good.”


  • “You get a variety of answers, there’s no way or how strong the evidence is. You might be completely wrong. I’ve never found forums, I find its easier to call your mate.”


  • “Sometimes I do look at forums to get piece of mind seeing other people’s problem. And not really there to learn.”


  • “I never use blogs too.”


  • “Doctors don’t have time to look into informal learning’s because they have to look into the formal learning.”


  • “How bout stuff like leadership, communication and stuff you don’t get taught? How do you know what’s going on in a different trust?”


  • “My perception on blogging is people’s experience are different from each other. And you want to learn the right thing. When you look on a blog, you don’t know if you can trust it rather than going to the lbrary and picking up a text book.”


  • “When it comes working in a place, its completely disorganized.”


  • “When you’re filling in forms, that type of thing. It’s not actually learning. Its general enquiries about how do I get my study leave.”


  • “There is nothing better than direct email and direct contact.”


  • “Facebook – does it have a role in training? No. Use it but its completely separate. Very doubtful for people use it for e-learning or professional.


  • “They setup an F1 group for Facebook but I believe people are not really themselves on it. Twitter might be useful. It can be a less intrusive paging system to see a certain patient.”


  • “In New Zealand they have a 120 character system where you can send from computer to mobile and select people who you want to send it too.”


  • “If we’re talking about clinical opportunities – if he sees something he could put on a board and you go and try to learn from it, that would be useful. A shared area for resources so you put something up – like a bulletin board.”

Communications perceptions & challenges

  • Regarding facebook – “Students communicate with friends and family. They ask silly questions, like where is the nearest supermarket or how do we get a parking permit. Or nightspots – the social side of it. I believe most students use Facebook. We get about half of each group to sign up to Facebook. Others say they can’t because it’s being blocked. It helps me to get to know them before they come.”
  • ”Students sent out surveys to other students using SurveyMonkey too”
  • Some don’t want to come here because of social networks being blocked.”
  • “Its quite embarrassing when they say they can’t go onto the Facebook. All the military sites were blocked. A student needed to do some research for her project on military medicine and IT would not lift up the restrictions.”


  • Problem with internet in accommodation as well because of lack of reliable IT provider. Students were wondering up in the nighties coming up to the centre to get access to Internet.”


  • I told them to get the 3g dongle. This was before they decided to include the price of accommodation with the dongle, which in the end never even worked. It screws people over when people are already on 18 month contract and forced to pay for access that is automatically included in the rent”


  • “MySpace and Youtube are good but sometimes the firewall won’t even let you on the NHS website. And as for Twitter, there’s not access to that at all.”


  • “We do however use SurveyMonkey which is a $200 annual subscription. We use it as part of audits, clinical audits.  It’s very easy to use actually and its better than the one that we have in house. Every teaching session we need to evaluate.  We keep a TrustWide spread sheet.  They use it for their appraisal.”


Teachers perceptions & challenges

  • I’ve been experimenting with Ning. I’ve got all different learners, I’ve tried with forums, failed miserably.”
  • It’s a different type of learning isn’t it, it’s actually the voluntary process because you actively learn it. Whereas in a ward, it doesn’t.  A lot of practical learning is missed. It should be shared. If you took the patient vs the Trust, you will realize that.”


  • There’s quite a lot of similar stuff on King’s and not reinventing the wheel. We should learn about their environment.”


  • There is also this thing called iPath, we have to login to.”


  • We also need to encourage those who just need a good kick up their back side to get them going in their learning. Its often things like my wife just had a baby or I don’t know.”
  • “Traditional teaching is irreplaceable and this is just a supplement. A small group that you have to attend and register also is a professional point of it. But you can do it online by replicating the physical classroom scenario.”


  • For some people Facebook is second nature but for me, its not. I worry about the group trainees who are not motivated. It’s important to understand why their not motivated. Is it the trainers’ responsibility? It’s not but it is, therefore we need to understand why. The question is, are social networks a useful resource to help the trainee.”
  • “The way I think of this, when I qualified in 1990 I had no ‘e’ anything. This is completely out of the box, in addition to what we have now. Now I can type into Google and a thousand results whereas before I have 6 books and refer to that. Makes it easier.”


  • An easy way to access with all the things that are good; if we can have a branch way to do and find it, that would be good.”


  • “There is a example of distant learning in Cardiff, where there’s learning online and work very well. I think it’s the Diploma in Dermatology, run by the Wales University. It was a mixture of distance learning and a small group P2 they now use podcast type approach.”
  • “What fresh cases are useful can be made available online, so there is a incentive for using the online resource by using it for sharing.”


  • “By using YouTube, you could watch the video and learn. This is good for visual learners. But some people who are auditory learners.”


  • “Some people just learn better than others. None of this is going to be the answer to this.”


  • ”Sometimes its easier to be honest with a computer rather than a human being. “
  • “It works both ways, there is massive learning material but do we use that to its massive learning potential. Maybe this is what sort of thing that it could tap into. Say if you want to focus on someone’s leg, The other way we can use is in general, you could use nationwide or area wide.”
  • “Social networks are worth using it for exams for better group work.”


  • There has been a curriculum that has been created in that and would be suitable for podcast.”

Hope this was useful!

@Liz_Azyan xxx


  • An interesting summary of views.
    As a civil servant, these resonate with me and I think there are two underlying issues: (1)IT infrastructure and (2)general understanding of social media and the role it plays within broader digital engagement.
    Point 2 is a common issue across many professional groups, when colleagues try to sell the idea of a digital engagement. Very often, there is too much emphasis on the specific channel or platform, i.e. Facebook or Youtube. The focus needs to be brought back to the need, for example sharing videos or creating a community. Coverage of privacy issues on Facebook is one of many challenges that continues to divide those who use social media, and those who don’t. It is more important than ever to focus on what digital engagement can deliver and for whom, and move the focus away from the delivery channels.
    The distance learning example in the above article, is a good one, by the way – is there any more background on this?