I believe the possibilities of social media (SM) for continuing professional development (CPD) and for discussion and dissemination of research are enormous. CPD in this case means formal courses but also unstructured just-in-time and sometimes even serendipitous learning . In the past year I’ve gained huge benefits from LinkedIn, discussion boards, blogs, and Twitter in particular and the advantages are only going to increase as more professionals come to recognise the potential and join the conversations. I will review each of the four platforms, with blogs and Twitter to be covered in part 2. Facebook can also be a great tool for learning but I as don’t use it a lot for that purpose I will not cover it.
LinkedIn is widely used as a platform for connecting with others with similar professional interests. Less well-known are the interest groups where you can ask questions, post information about your activities and browse discussions. For example I have learnt about some CPD options through discussion threads and discovered blogs to follow. I have also benefitted from reading people’s profiles, seeing their combinations of qualifications and employment and linking to websites etc for further information about interesting research and other topics.
Discussion boards are a great way to learn about what others are doing, exchange information and make contacts from all over the world. I find the NOVICE network brilliant as it fits my interests perfectly but there are several other forums around that I am aware of and probably many more that I don’t know about.
The US-based VIN, the first major online veterinary resource is still going strong after 20 years and is used by veterinarians from all over the world. Kudos to its founders for seeing the future of such platforms so long before most of us caught on but unfortunately the cost of using VIN is significant and prevents me from using it.
In Australia the AVA has a forum area for members (as I assume many national veterinary associations do) and there is also a new forum hosted by Pfizer. The potential for conflict of interest on a forum hosted by a drug company is interesting but CPD is being offered more by private enterprise, either alone or in partnership with universities. Well done to Pfizer for creating a space for informal learning as well as the more formal modules.
I’ve just discovered VetPol, hosted in the UK but open to anyone. It has a range of forum topics with general professional interest and business forums being the most active, but it also has some excellent clinical discussions, for example whether particular adverse drug reactions have been experienced by others and reports from workshops and meetings. It also has a space for members to blog, as do most of the sites mentioned above.
I’d love to learn about other forums people are using so please leave a comment if you have more information.