Physiotherapy students’ use of online technology as part of their learning practices: A case study

13 Apr 2012

The relevance of non-technical skills have long been acknowledged as important components of clinical learning, and there is evidence that integrating technology can facilitate their development by encouraging reflection, and by enhancing communication and reasoning. However, effectively integrating technology into learning practices must take the contextual needs of students into consideration. The aim of this study was to determine what online tools undergraduate physiotherapy students at one South African university are familiar with, and how they use them as part of their learning practices. The case study was conducted in a university physiotherapy department in the Western Cape during 2010. A cross-sectional, descriptive design used a survey to obtain quantitative and qualitative data from participants, and a plot study was conducted to test the reliability of the instrument. All ethical considerations were adhered to. Seventy six percent of participants had access to the internet at home, and 93% of them belonged to a social network, although fewer than half used it for their studying. Few students reported using the internet for more than information retrieval but reported wanting to use it for enhanced communication with lecturers. Almost all respondents believed that lectures were a useful way to learn. However, 61% added that integrating online learning activities with lectures could have value. Integrating technology into healthcare education has the potential to develop non-technical skills that are relevant for clinical practice. However, this group of students currently lack the experience and insight to use technology effectively as part of their learning practices. Educators must take cognisance of the educational and contextual needs of students if they wish to integrate technology into clinical teaching.