Social Media Use in Nursing Education

Terri L. Schmitt, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, Susan S. Sims-Giddens, EdD, RN, Richard G. Booth, MScN, RN


Online J Issues Nurs. 2012;17(3) 

In This Article

Background and Significance

Changing Pedagogy

As technology is rapidly changing, so is pedagogy within nursing education. Both the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the AACN have revised curriculum standards, encouraging nursing programs to incorporate not only nursing informatics, but technology competencies as well (AACN, 2008; AACN, 2011; NLNAC, 2008). Similarly, the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN) and Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) are finalizing competencies for undergraduate nursing education to ensure graduating nurses are prepared to practice in technology-enabled clinical environments (CASN, 2011).

With the Institute of Medicine's critical report on the future of nursing, many nurses will return to school for further education (IOM, 2011). Technology becomes a medium through which educators can instruct and students can learn. Through social media, students can learn outside of the traditional classroom, creating a professional voice, expanding technological abilities, and enhancing their ability to professionally and clearly communicate despite barriers of time and distance. Social media offers mechanisms for collaboration, networking, and learning not previously available to faculty or students. Social networking sites such as Twitter®, Facebook®, and LinkedIn®; blogs; and file sharing of scholarly works through entities like Mendeley are the tools through which students can learn and embrace these new opportunities.

Eighty-seven percent of students who attend a community college or university own a laptop; 62% own an iPod; and 55% own a smartphone, digital camera, or webcam (Dahlstrom, Grunwald,deBoor, & Vockley, 2011). The primary tool used in academia is the laptop computer, essential for word processing and accessing library websites and college learning management systems. Students understand they have greater access to resources through technology, and that technology assists them to be successful and engages them in the learning process.

Student Populations

Current undergraduate and graduate nursing students are of varied backgrounds and age, from millennials to baby-boomers. Millennials multi-task personal and academic interactions daily; 58% check their Facebook® account 13 times per day; 11% of students post or read a collective of 112 times per day (Dahlstrom, Grunwald, deBoor, & Vockley, 2011). Although technologically savvy, many millennials lack understanding of proper technology use for professional purposes. Regardless, Dahlstrom et al. (2011) purport that students within the Millennium generation will desire responsive and interactive faculty, and potentially evaluate classes by the effectiveness and frequency of meaningful technology integration. Many millennial and generation-X students have lived with computers and the internet all of their lives, and do not see it as an asset, but a mandatory part of their environment. These students may feel they are more adept than faculty at using technology and may not be impressed by faculty use (Oblinger, 2003).

Baby boomers are the fasting growing age group of persons using social media tools, with over 51% using some form of social media (Pew Research Center, 2011) and over 150% growth in use since 2009 (Brandon, 2011). The biggest factors for non-traditional student (often of baby boomer age) withdrawal from education is family and home demands and lack of supportive services (Enseman, Coxon, Anderson, & Anae, 2006). Use of social media within the classroom can address some of these barriers and be successful with this population.

In sum, social media is appropriate to a variety of student populations. Like all classroom tools, social media as a pedagogy needs a clear purpose; an orientation; technology support; a timeframe appropriate to the course; and flexibility on the part of faculty and student.