To Engage Pharmacy Students, Turn to Facebook

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A Facebook page can enhance pharmacy students’ learning and serve as a study tool, according to the results of a study published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education.

Researchers aimed to increase student involvement outside of class activities. They established a Facebook page for Northeastern University’s Comprehensive Disease Management 4, which focuses on infectious diseases and is open to year 3 students. Students were urged to “like” the Facebook page to see news posts and comment on discussions. Researchers also used Blackboard, an online educational discussion board, and monitored engagement on that forum as well.

Of 153 students enrolled in the course, 81 liked the Facebook page by the end of the first week, and it had 474 visits, 5 wall posts, and 5 interactions (likes or comments) on wall posts. By the end of the course, the page had 53 wall posts and 284 comments and likes. At its peak, researchers reported 117 page likes, 18 wall posts, 118 post interactions, and 1326 page visits. In contrast, the course’s Blackboard page had only 38 posts from 13 students and 6 faculty members during the course duration.

At the end of the course, researchers conducted an anonymous survey to gauge student opinions on the course Facebook page, with questions to evaluate frequency and patterns of use, and the types of posts that were most useful. A total of 119 students participated in the survey, with 48% of those students stating they used Facebook daily.

During their first introduction to the class Facebook page, 38% of students were unsure how it would work and 42% were unhappy about viewing academic posts during social activity, according to the end-of-course survey. Although only 26% of students actively commented or posted, an additional 24% interacted with the page by liking its posts. Students reported that they were more likely to post or read a post on Facebook than Blackboard.

Researchers noted that because many of the students were passive observers rather than actively engaging in the Facebook page, different strategies could encourage more active interaction.