Learning under lockdown: navigating the best way to study onlineBMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1283 (Published 09 April 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1283
The volume of information you need to learn in a short space of time for medical school can be daunting, and efficiency is key. Fortunately the digital age has presented medical students with new mediums through which to learn.1,2 In this article I look at their pros and cons and provide some high quality examples.
Tweetorials are a series of tweets on Twitter, most commonly presented as a thread, which aim to educate an audience on a specific topic. They are often posted by leaders and experts in their specialties, and can allow students to interact with them in an informal way. Some critical thinking is required because anyone can post a thread on social media. Evaluating the legitimacy and any conflicts of interest of tweetorialists is advised before following them on Twitter.
Openly available and free
Allows students to interact with, and learn from, experts they would usually not be able to access
Anyone can post tweetorials and they are not peer reviewed
Often discuss niche topics that are beyond the scope of some medical curriculums
Mark’s top three tweetorial sources
Andre Mansoor, @andremansoor
Provides useful videos from real cases with a focus on clinical observation and examination techniques
Collects relevant tweetorials from a variety of sources and provides a quick overview of topics covered by them; a great reference source
Tony Breu, @tony_breu
Covers a wide range of specialties, grouped by topic; a treasure trove of engaging tweetorials that are light and fun
Podcasts have become increasingly popular, particularly among young people.3-6 Although many podcasts are for entertainment rather than education purposes, The BMJ has highlighted their role in medical education.7 For those who prefer learning by listening, podcasts are a great way to complement traditional learning methods. They also enable learning on the go or while doing other things. Some podcasts adopt a case based approach with clinical examples, whereas others focus on one disease or topic.
Offer structured approaches to topics that are particularly difficult
Convenient, free, and can be listened to on the go
Comprise a wide range of formats and cover different approaches to teaching
Information often not peer reviewed or rigorously scrutinised
Good for overviews on topics, but generally do not provide the same depth of information as books and lectures
Mark’s top three medical podcasts
Run the List8
Structured and concise. Focuses on one disease at a time and discusses a relevant case that encompasses the most important facets of the disease.
Short episodes (usually around 3-5 minutes) packed with unique insights, often related to health policy. Might not help you ace your exams but will definitely encourage reflection on topics you might not have thought about.
A light hearted podcast, with cases presented in a fun, engaging, and stimulating manner. Not as formal or academic as many other medical podcasts.
YouTube has an enormous amount of video content, some of which is relevant for medical students.11,12 Subjects ranging from pharmacology to practical exam preparation can be found on the site. Although many medical students have access to video lectures, the sheer volume and range of teaching styles on the platform makes YouTube a great alternative or supplement to lectures and books.
Content has a seemingly unlimited range of teaching styles covering every possible topic
Often contains great illustrations to explain concepts
Can be watched double speed if necessary
Preclinical content is often much better than clinical content
Often great for overviews of topics, but detail might be difficult to find
Older videos might be incongruent with current guidelines
Mark’s top three YouTube channels
Beautifully hand drawn, and perhaps the best, illustrations out of the highlighted channels. Video is well paced and easy to follow.
Provides a highly detailed and comprehensive view of topics and has a great knack for explaining difficult ones.
Khan Academy medicine15
Not highly detailed, but provides a good source of overviews of physiology and disease—great as an introduction to a new topic. The narration is clear, and the audio is perhaps one of the best on the platform.
While video and audio learning platforms are relatively familiar to many medical students, other innovative platforms exist. Some revolve around creating visual representations to help memorise information. Other apps such as Essential Anatomy, Anatomy Learning—3D Atlas, and Teach Me Anatomy are interactive ways of engaging with anatomy. Although these platforms are different from traditional forms of learning, they can be useful for memorising and understanding large volumes of information through clever visual techniques.
Creative ways of learning the curriculum, particularly for content otherwise requiring rote learning
Active and engaging methods of learning, particularly compared with passive learning through videos or lectures
Often created with students in mind, so the information is tailored to that audience. Digital flashcards can be similarly tailored to a student’s needs
Often subscription based and expensive
Mnemonics can be specific to a country or region. This is particularly true for treatments, as they often differ based on regional guidelines
Not regularly updated, therefore information might be outdated
Mark’s top three alternative platforms
Perhaps the best resource for visual learners. I benefited greatly from the visual mnemonics, particularly for microbiology and pharmacology.
Similar to SketchyMedical, although the illustrations are not as crisp. Tailored to US students but useful as an alternative to memorising concepts, particularly for visual learners.
Makes creating flashcards simple; also avoids the pitfalls of personal flashcards (eg, illegible, damaged, lost). The flashcards can be shared among friends and can include pictures.
Competing interests: None.