Using Social Media in Anatomy Education: Opportunities and Challenges for Low-Resource Settings

Abu-Sadat-Mohammad Nurunnabi

Ontario Tech University


Anatomy is considered a crucial part of undergraduate and postgraduate medical education curricula in Bangladesh, which is among the low-resource countries of South Asia; however, to date, controversy prevails on the appropriate method of anatomy teaching and learning in low-resource settings. Nowadays, blended learning has been recommended by medical educators as a promising, engaging, and effective form of instructional approach in medical education. It comprises the use of social media extensively, and those have increasingly become popular, especially in recent years, due to a shift to online platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, digital technology-based teaching and learning especially using social media platforms, have become a common practice in anatomy education, as complementary to the traditional face-to-face teaching and learning in Bangladesh. Using social media (digital technologies) has been demonstrated as an effective tool to enhance student-centered teaching and learning. These also allow a more personalized, self-directed learning experience for the learners. Instructors can evaluate and provide personalized feedback for self-improvement to the learners. Moreover, this opportunity holds the key to success in delivering quality anatomy education, even in those medical colleges established in remote areas through distance learning addressing the nation’s most entrenched medical teacher vacancies. Challenges that affect the integration of social media in medical education include lack of time and effort, low technical skills, resource-poor infrastructure, lack of institutional support, and stakeholders’ negative attitudes towards social media. Solutions to those problems may include training for professional development of the faculties with the improvement of technical skills, incentives for time and efforts, favorable digital and tech-friendly institutional strategies, and growing positive outlook towards social media, and above all, ensuring digital wellness in the classroom and curriculum.


Anatomy education, digital technology, medical education, social media,


Anatomy is considered as a crucial part in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education curricula in Bangladesh (Habib, 2016); however, to date, controversy prevails on the appropriate method of anatomy teaching and learning (Sbayeh et al., 2016). Medical educators have discussed the positive impacts of blended learning in anatomy education previously by combining face-to-face and online teaching together, along with the adoption of flipped classroom methods (Nurunnabi et al., 2022). Nowadays, blended learning has been recommended by medical educators as a promising, engaging, and effective form of instructional approach in medical education (Estai & Bunt, 2016). It comprises the use of social media extensively (Madanick, 2015), and those have increasingly become popular, especially in recent years due to a shift to online platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic (Iwanaga et al., 2021; Saverino, 2021). Since then, digital technology-based teaching and learning have become a common practice in anatomy education as complementary to traditional face-to-face teaching and learning (Iwanaga et al., 2021). This chapter aims to discuss the benefits as well as drawbacks of using social media in anatomy teaching and learning and how to integrate those media in instructional strategies effectively.


Due to the rapid change through the integration of digital technologies and following trends of globalization in instructional methods in higher education opened us to newer educational practices like using social media in teaching and learning (Cheston, Flickinger & Chisolm, 2013). Over the past few decades, there has been a shift in medical education from a traditional didactic model of instruction to other modalities like online or e-learning (O’Doherty et al., 2018). However, Bangladesh is a resource-poor country in South Asia. Using the adoption of digital technologies (e.g., social media) as instruction tools in medical education is comparatively new and challenging here (Nurunnabi et al., 2022).

Digital technology is an essential element of learning in the 21st century. E-learning has the potential to make important contributions to medical education, not only from the view of ongoing pandemics but also from the view it from a medium of instruction. During the COVID-19 pandemic, e-learning was expected to maintain a balance between medical students’ intended learning outcomes (i.e., theoretical knowledge and/or clinical skills and competencies) and their safety. Evidence showed that digital technologies have ensured that students are completely involved as learning takes place together with texts, videos, sounds, interactive graphics, and collaborative spaces. In achieving such outcomes, the use of different social media has gained popularity day by day (Khogali et al., 2011). Those may enhance the quality of teaching and learning, increase effectivity of instructions, enhance student engagement, and fulfill the need for medical colleges by ensuring access to education and essential training from remote areas (Khogali et al., 2011). The integration of available digital technologies in the form of social media has resulted in access to resources and improvement of the quality of learning and teaching (Songkram, 2015).

The increase in the use of digital technology, especially social media in medical education during the COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat altered the attitude of medical teachers as they are the main distributors of knowledge through a new and more flexible mode of online digital instruction compared to the traditional face-to-face instructions (Iwanaga et al., 2021). Now they are considered more as supporters and motivators who urge and encourage students to participate and learn by adopting digital technologies like social media platforms (Nurunnabi et al., 2022).

Applications of Social Media in Anatomy Education

In recent years, social media has grown in popularity in anatomy teaching and learning globally (Pollock & Rea, 2019). One of the most popular social media platforms worldwide is Facebook (Madanick, 2015). To aid in learning, many anatomists across the globe have developed Facebook pages (Jaffar, 2014). Additionally, YouTube videos have become extremely popular (Barry et al., 2016). For example, an upper limb dissection video may be given in advance of the scheduled class instead of a regular dissection room session. The same video is again played by an anatomy instructor during class. The teacher led the students, highlighted the steps of dissection as shown in the videos, and responded to their inquiries. Then the students may engage themselves in cadaver dissection and anatomical drawing of the structure of the forearm, arm, and hand in groups. The same can be applied to human embryology teaching (Nurunnabi et al., 2022). Blogs have been used to improve learner engagement, stimulate interaction with faculty, maintain students’ humanism and empathy, and enhance collaboration (Chretien, Goldman & Faselis, 2008). Twitter users may participate by following any stream of tweets that include the hashtag or actively engage in the chat by including the appropriate Twitter hashtag in a tweet, which helps in knowledge dissemination, debate, announcement, and feedback (Madanick, 2015).

Interestingly, a study showed that some students performed better on the Facebook pages by engaging themselves more deeply in discussions than other students who contributed with simple “like” or “comments” there. The deeper engagement of those students who did better also demonstrated that Facebook might be a viable medium for enticing students in an educational context rather than serving as a distraction (Jaffar & Eladl, 2016). Another Facebook survey found that most respondents did not think the videos of the dissection or procedures were too graphic in nature (Rai et al., 2019). However, all Facebook pages are not student-centric due to their content load and teaching approach (Jaffar & Eladl, 2016). A Twitter hashtag helps students to find appropriate and useful resources for quick memorization and learning, and it also facilitates simple and quick communication between students and educators (Hennessy et al., 2020). Studies found that students are very familiar with YouTube videos, and those are very effective as learning tools in anatomy education (Barry et al., 2016; Mustafa et al., 2020).

However, educators need to act sensible and judicious while photographs and videos of cadavers or cadaveric materials are displayed to the students (Hennessy et al., 2020). Nevertheless, many people argue that cadaver dissection is the most effective way to teach and learn anatomy; however, first-time students who are very much eager and interested in learning anatomy have little access to these resources, which is where social media can help bridge the gap (Cheston et al., 2013; Rai et al., 2019). Most teachers are not all familiar with social media and are technologically challenged to integrate those among their instructional tools (Nurunnabi et al., 2022). Students from resource-strained backgrounds may not have the ability to possess the computers/tablets and the internet facilities to avail the materials available on social media. Moreover, while teaching in a large scale, the development of such materials needs multi-disciplinary cooperation and requires additional skills provided by photographers, videographers, instructional designers, and many more, unlike traditional classroom instructions (Cheston, Flickinger & Chisolm, 2013; Madanick, 2015). Another concern is digital privacy and confidentiality that prevails among educators and students. From a conservative and culturally sensitive perspective, digital phobia among teachers and students related to social media (e.g., privacy, misuse/abuse, cyberbullying) needs to be addressed (Cheston, Flickinger & Chisolm, 2013). Last but not least, the negative attitude of teachers and students towards social media as instructional tools is a huge challenge, as they are habituated to traditional teaching methods for decades and hardly want to switch (Sultan, 2018).

Conclusions and Future Recommendations

For the vast majority of people in our modern, digitally linked culture, social media has become inevitable, and it has evolved into an essential form of communication in our daily life (Madanick, 2015). However, as a nation, we are lagging behind in using social media in our medical education; it requires a change in the philosophical approach to anatomy education in the country. Both public and private medical colleges in Bangladesh are struggling to adapt to those changes in their practice. Based on the literature review and personal experience, I would like to put the following recommendations for future teaching and learning in anatomy education in low-resource settings like Bangladesh:

  1. Medical colleges need to actively engage with students to call on their ingenuity and to develop digital resources through social media platforms like blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube videos, and Twitter, which may benefit overall medical education in the long run and motivate future educators.
  2. Digital innovations like the use of social media in teaching and learning should continue to progress as because it may accelerate the continuing transformation away from traditional teaching, learning, and assessment methods in medical education.
  3. Provision of training for professional development of the faculties with the improvement of technical skills, incentives for time and efforts, favorable digital and tech-friendly institutional strategies, and growing positive outlook towards social media.
  4. Further research is needed to investigate the nature and value of social media as instructional methods, their roles in student engagement, assessment, and feedback, as well as their impacts on remediation.
  5. Finally, digital phobia among teachers and students related to social media (e.g., privacy, misuse/abuse, cyberbullying) needs to be addressed, and mental health counseling should be in place.


Barry, D. S., Marzouk, F., Chulak-Oglu, K., Bennett, D., Tierney, P., & O’Keeffe, G. W. (2016). Anatomy education for the YouTube generation. Anatomical sciences education, 9(1), 90–96.

Cheston, C. C., Flickinger, T. E., & Chisolm, M. S. (2013). Social media use in medical education: a systematic review. Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 88(6), 893–901.

Chretien, K., Goldman, E., & Faselis, C. (2008). The reflective writing class blog: using technology to promote reflection and professional development. Journal of general internal medicine, 23(12), 2066–2070.

Estai, M., & Bunt, S. (2016). Best teaching practices in anatomy education: A critical review. Annals of anatomy = Anatomischer Anzeiger: official organ of the Anatomische Gesellschaft, 208, 151–157.

Iwanaga, J., Loukas, M., Dumont, A. S., & Tubbs, R. S. (2021). A review of anatomy education during and after the COVID-19 pandemic: Revisiting traditional and modern methods to achieve future innovation. Clinical anatomy, 34(1), 108–114.

Jaffar A. A. (2014). Exploring the use of a Facebook page in anatomy education. Anatomical sciences education, 7(3), 199–208.

Jaffar, A. A., & Eladl, M. A. (2016). Engagement Patterns of High and Low Academic Performers on Facebook Anatomy Pages. Journal of medical education and curricular development, 3, JMECD.S36646.

Habib, M. A. (2016). Teaching clinical anatomy. Journal of Armed Forces Medical College, Bangladesh, 12(2), 1–2.

Hennessy, C. M., Kirkpatrick, E., Smith, C. F., & Border, S. (2016). Social media and anatomy education: Using twitter to enhance the student learning experience in anatomy. Anatomical sciences education, 9(6), 505–515.

Khogali, S. E., Davies, D. A., Donnan, P. T., Gray, A., Harden, R. M., McDonald, J., Pippard, M. J., Pringle, S. D., & Yu, N. (2011). Integration of e-learning resources into a medical school curriculum. Medical teacher, 33(4), 311–318.

Madanick R. D. (2015). Education becomes social: the intersection of social media and medical education. Gastroenterology, 149(4), 844–847.

Mustafa, A. G., Taha, N. R., Alshboul, O. A., Alsalem, M., & Malki, M. I. (2020). Using YouTube to Learn Anatomy: Perspectives of Jordanian Medical Students. BioMed research international, 2020, 6861416.

Nurunnabi, A. S. M., Kamal, A. H. M. M., Perven, H. A., Afroz, H., Chakma, S., Talukder, M. A. S., & Tapu, T. T. (2022). Flipped classroom approach in anatomy teaching and learning in undergraduate medical education in Bangladesh. Mugda Medical College Journal, 5(1), 41–45.

O’Doherty, D., Dromey, M., Lougheed, J., Hannigan, A., Last, J., & McGrath, D. (2018). Barriers and solutions to online learning in medical education – an integrative review. BMC medical education, 18(1), 130.

Pollock, W., & Rea, P. M. (2019). The Use of Social Media in Anatomical and Health Professional Education: A Systematic Review. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 1205, 149–170.

Rai, R., Shereen, R., Protas, M., Greaney, C., Brooks, K. N., Iwanaga, J., Loukas, M., & Tubbs, R. S. (2019). Social media and cadaveric dissection: A survey study. Clinical anatomy, 32(8), 1033–1041.

Saverino, D. (2021). Teaching anatomy at the time of COVID-19. Clinical anatomy, 34(8), 1128.

Sbayeh, A., Qaedi Choo, M. A., Quane, K. A., Finucane, P., McGrath, D., O’Flynn, S., O’Mahony, S. M., & O’Tuathaigh, C. M. P. (2016). Relevance of anatomy to medical education and clinical practice: perspectives of medical students, clinicians, and educators. Perspectives on medical education, 5(6), 338–346.

Songkram, N. (2015). E-learning system in virtual learning environment to develop creative thinking for learners in higher education. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 174, 674–679.

Sultan, A. S. (2018). The Flipped Classroom: An active teaching and learning strategy for making the sessions more interactive and challenging. JPMA: The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, 68(4), 630–632.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2023 Copyright © by Abu-Sadat-Mohammad Nurunnabi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book