Background: Social media can be part of the formal education of health professsionals and in their lifelong learning activities. The effectiveness of Facebook, an online social medium, application for educational purposes was evaluated in this study. It was used to serve as a teaching medium of a course in medical emergencies in dental practice (MEDP).
Methods: Syrian dental students were invited to join a Facebook group "Medical emergencies in dental practice" during the second semester of the academic year 2013-2014. The group privacy settings were changed from an open group to a closed group after the registration period. Administrators of the group published 61 posts during the course period, which extended for one month. Students' progress in learning was evaluated using self-assessment questionnaires administered to the students before and after the course. These questionnaires also queried their opinions regarding the use of Facebook as an educational modality. Qualitative statistics, Wilcoxon signed ranks and Mann-Whitney U-tests were used to analyze the data.
Results: Out of 388 students registered in this course, 184 completed it. Two-third of students agreed that Facebook was useful in education. Their impressions of this course were 17.4% as excellent, 52.2% as very good. P values of the self-assessment questions of Wilcoxon signed ranks test were <0.001, indicating self-assessed improvement in MEDP skills.
Discussion: Facebook as a social medium provides a unique learning environment. It allows students to discuss topics more openly in a flexible setting with less rigid time and place constraints. In the light of this study it was found that Facebook may be useful in teaching medical emergencies in dental practice in its theoretical aspect.