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Social media as a learning tool


My name is Laura, and I am taking a year away from being a medical student to complete a masters in Health Care Ethics and Law. Medical schools call this year out an "intercalation year" and offers it to all medical students interested in earning an extra science-related degree on top of their current medical degree. In my fourth-year at medical school, I started a research project to explore how medical students used social media to achieve their learning goals. Is there a place for social media in an academic institution at all? Can social media actually benefit students rather than be a distraction? This was what I wanted to find out. Right now, the study has gone international with medical schools as far as Australia, North America, Saudi Arabia and many more taking part!

In Depth

I think it is safe to say that most of you are on some sort of social media website, whether that is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. At the very least you will have heard of them. Mostly they are used for leisure purposes, but could they also offer some learning benefits?

For a while now, higher education institutions have adopted social media technology as a means of delivering curricula. Medicine is a discipline that has only just started to look into this possibility. Our research study has identified several ways in which social media is currently used to facilitate curricula delivery and supplement independent learning:

-  Creating Facebook groups with peers to extend small group seminar discussions to the online world

-  Sharing of academic resources and journals via social media

-  Fast, effective communication channels between peers and lecturers irrespective of classroom hours and physical location

-  Following hastags on Twitter appropriate to the subject they are learning

-  Searching YouTube videos for practical procedure demonstrations or tutorials

-  Instagram-like applications available to doctors and medical students where they can share and discuss pictures of clinical examination findings, blood test results, chest x-rays, electrocardiograms, MRI/CT scans etc.

-  Using interactive twitter feeds in classrooms to answer students' questions and encourage participation

The list could go on. The body of research literature available to date indicates there are positive outcomes to the implementation of social media technology into the medical curriculum which outweighs any drawbacks - increased motivation and engagement with study material, increased likelihood of seeking academic support, improved exam scores, improved confidence with the subject and better knowledge retention. The study is still ongoing and the next phase will involve investigating whether attitudes towards social media use in medical education differs between countries or cultures. 

Going Further

To find out more about studying medicine at undergraduate level or doing an intercalation year, see:

Manchester Medical School

Intercalation year


Exercise as a form of treatment for mental illness


My name is Joe and I’ve just begun the 2nd year of my PhD in Medicine. I am researching how we can use physical exercise to improve people’s mental health. Specifically, I work with young people (from 18 years onwards), who are experiencing serious mental health problems for the first time in their lives – a condition which is referred to as “First Episode Psychosis”. I am investigating whether specially designed physical exercise routines can help people with First Episode Psychosis to feel healthier; in the body, and also in the mind. 

In Depth

What is First Episode Psychosis

First Episode Psychosis is the first 5 years of any ‘psychotic disorder’, such as Schizophrenia. This affects around 1 in 100 people, and most often starts around the age of 18. The most recognisable symptoms of first-episode psychosis are hearing voices, seeing things which other people cannot see (hallucinations), delusional beliefs and paranoia. Along with these, there are often less obvious symptoms of people severely lacking in motivation, feeling depressed, withdrawing from society and becoming reclusive.

Current Treatment

The most common treatment for first-episode psychosis is antipsychotic medications: There are tablets that sufferers can take which greatly reduce the symptoms of hearing voices, delusions etc. However, people taking these tablets often relapse within a few years, or need higher and higher doses overtime for them to remain effective. Furthermore, antipsychotics do not help with the symptoms of social withdrawal and inability to feel motivated. Unfortunately, it is these unseen symptoms which can really prevent people from living a happy and fulfilling life.

What do I Investigate?

I am investigating whether we can use physical exercise for first-episode psychosis, as an extra treatment for all the different types of symptoms so that they need fewer medications and feel better overall in life. To do this, people with first-episode psychosis are sent to me from their mental health service. I design them a special exercise routine and then take them to the gym twice-per-week for 10 weeks to train with them. In the exercise sessions, we do running, rowing and cycling to work on their fitness, and also weight training to work on the muscles. Past research has shown that these sorts of training can make people feel better, happier and more motivated – even in normal healthy people. It has never been tried for First Episode Psychosis (even though these are the people who may need it most!).

To see if it has worked, we score peoples’ mental health using a psychiatric interview before they start the 10 weeks of training, and then score them again after the 10 weeks to check if they have improved. I also look at peoples’ physical health, fitness, social life and brain functioning, as exercise is known to be able to help with these things too. If proven effective, exercise may eventually become part of NHS treatment programs for first-episode psychosis, and be available to any young person who is in need of treatment, like a new form of therapy! 

Going Further

If you want to know more about first-episode psychosis in general, such as what causes it, what it does, here is a great place to start:

For more information about my specific experiment, you can find the full details of the clinical trial here:

If you’re interested in which physical exercise can improve mental health, this article goes through many different ways in which it may do this:


How to read minds...almost

by YPU Admin on March 5, 2015, Comments. Tags: behaviour, employability, MHLS, mind, mindreading, postgrad, psychology, and Research

"You study Psychology? Does this mean that you know what I’m thinking?"

This is a common response when I tell people what I do. The general public seem to be fascinated by Psychology. Concepts from Psychology are part of our everyday language and form the basis of many television programmes. Yet as Psychology is a very diverse field, many people only have a vague idea of what a Psychology researcher, student, or professional might actually be doing with their time.

What is Psychology?

Psychology is a vast field of study that can basically be summarised as the study of the mind and behaviour. This captures a number of related but varied disciplines. The School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester offer degrees in Psychology, Audiology and Speech and language therapy. Researchers in the school are working on projects that can span from the development of hearing aids, to the factors which influence somebody’s preferences for particular products. 

Studying Psychology 

Studying Psychology as an undergraduate involves a three year programme which offers a broad introduction to the field. As students progress through the course they can choose modules which allow them to follow their developing interests. Psychology students gain scientific research skills throughout the course and complete their own research project in the final year.  

What can I do with a degree in Psychology? 

15-20% of students who study Psychology as an undergraduate will go on to continue studying for a postgraduate qualification. Examples of postgraduate training courses include Clinical Psychology, Educational Psychology and Occupational Psychology. Alternatively, students may consider completing further research training such as a PhD, in which they focus on a specific research project over several years.

Students who do not decide to continue training in Psychology may pursue opportunities such as training as an occupational therapist, working for the police or in human resources.  The skills in critical thinking, communication and problem solving that students develop over the course of their Psychology degree are valued by many employers.

There are further benefits to studying Psychology beyond enhancing your career prospects. For example, Psychology can teach you a great deal about yourself and how you interact with people and the world around you. A degree in Psychology can help you understand the limits of how much you can remember, why your eyes plays tricks on you, or why you are drawn to particular options in the supermarket. You may not finish the three years with mind reading abilities, but you will have an improved understanding of how we navigate our world.  

Going further

The School of Psychological Sciences website provides information about studying Psychology at the University of Manchester

The British Psychological Society’s website provides information about degrees and careers in Psychology, including further information about Clinical Psychology, Educational Psychology and Occupational Psychology

The following website offers synopses of interesting developments in Psychology research:

A series of videos in which lecturers from the University of Manchester discuss common misconceptions about Psychology can be viewed at: