Medical students, digital tools and studying practices on clinical placements: time, access and resourcefulness

J Williams, SE Timmis, A Hardeley, J Lee, C Mann, C Milner-Smith, C Trappes-Lomax, L Tyler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


Background and purpose This study investigated third year students’ uses of digital tools and resources to support their studies in formal and informal learning contexts at the University of Bristol, Medical school. Students spend most of their time on placement from year 3 onwards in geographically-dispersed NHS-based academies. The study explored what is already being used and how technology could be further incorporated in the future to facilitate learning according to the changing environments and practices. Methodology A qualitative methodology involved students as co-researchers (and co-authors) to explore their lived experiences, recognising that contextualised designs are needed to research the use of technology in education1and what Regehr2 has described as the ‘messiness’ of human learning. Six students maintained a video diary for 7 months (February to July 2010) and recorded entries approximately weekly. Students described and demonstrated how they used digital tools and resources to support their work. Regular progress meetings offered support and explored early findings. Students also assisted in data analysis and coding. Results were validated through further group discussion with reference to the full transcripts. Results Technology was influential in supporting the peripatetic lifestyle of medical students. Email was crucial to both time management and communication. Links between students and university were predominantly via e-mail whereas peer communication was in person. Feedback evoked strong opinions. Online tutorials were rated highly for their feedback on performance whilst personalised feedback was frequently lacking. Internet and other resources were located, brought together and used to create artefacts and organize their own educational materials. These were frequently printed and annotated. Access to the internet and digital tools were critical for students continually moving between different settings, locations, environments and cultures. Discussion and conclusions All these students used digital tools to be creative in gaining access and saving time and in particular to assemble resources to construct their own artefacts. Bonderup Dohn3 calls this ‘patchworking’ and highlights possible tensions between educational and digital practices because this patchworking activity may not always be recognised as valuable by educators who focus on the ‘cut and paste’ as an impoverished activity. Whereas, our study shows that these are part of wider set of students’ practices for improving their own learning and remodelling resources to meet their own studying needs. Medical educators need to understand these wider strategies and recognise how they contribute to resourcefulness and ownership of learning and studying.
Translated title of the contributionMedical students, digital tools and studying practices on clinical placements: time, access and resourcefulness
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationASME: Association of Medical Education: Annual Scientific Meeting, The Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, UK
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2011

Bibliographical note

Conference Organiser: ASME


Dive into the research topics of 'Medical students, digital tools and studying practices on clinical placements: time, access and resourcefulness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this