Clive G Wilson,, Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical sciences, 161
Cathedral St., Glasgow G1 0NR. Scotland, U.K.

Changes in the pharmacy curriculum reflect, albeit slowly, the manner of delivery and the knowledge base required in front line pharmacy services. New disciplines in biology including biochemistry and immunology, complimented by rehearsal of communication skills, have squeezed the teaching of traditional subjects such as pharmacognosy in the curriculum. Meanwhile the complexity of the medicines, including the rise of biopharmaceuticals, changed the skill sets required. Professions such as pharmacy now either surrendered employment niches to other groups (particularly biochemists and process engineers) or had to plan for specialization. They did gain other opportunities in clinical specialities, becoming more integrated into the healthcare team.

So changes occurred in the distinctiveness of a future pharmacist in terms of expected capabilities and naturally, at the undergraduate level information was piled on, rather than sorted and selected. Meanwhile, a gulf was opening between the newer and older members of the profession. With the wider adoption of Web 2.0 tools on the internet, a profound change occurred in communication between students and teachers. Two simultaneous systems of interchange evolved: that amongst students based on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and similar mobile telephone-based disseminations (relationship facilitators), accompanied by music and game feeds and the official lecturer to student communication based on university hosted sites, conveying details of classes, logging reports etc. The social sites are officially ‘blind’ to lecturers but not entirely secure. This generated new ethical issues and the emergence of ‘eprofessionalism’ as a concern (Cain 2008). It also isolated an older generation, unfamiliar with the new technology, and not cognizant of the potential teaching capabilities.

Web 2.0 is thus a sort of Pandora’s box. It facilitates dissemination of material that can be plagiarized; it accidentally allows ‘identity’ information to travel in an unrestricted way. The disclosure of photographs, off-the-cuff opinions and political views can be sampled by others not in their intended peer group. This has resulted in ethical issues not only for society, but for individual young pharmacists who have been prosecuted for disclosing patient information. The other face of Web 2.0 is the use of social media to construct individualized teaching programmes based on e-learning engines. These go beyond the conventional static interaction. For example, a random number generator can be put into an e-book text to rehearse numeracy skills and played on phone, tablet or laptop. Each visit will seed a new number and perhaps even introduce further complexity. E-books can contain video content, can be rapidly updated and expanded, and can link to other information services. The other tool is the ‘App’, which can collect surveys and information anonymously (almost) and provide animation. On a smart phone, recognition software could direct the user to appropriate information services and may be especially useful in familiarizing users with medication-use systems and unfamiliar technology.

In conclusion, societal changes, including the increase in availability of knowledge available on the web and applications utilising more complex technology will accelerate the need to consider how pharmacists of the future will be trained.

Jeff Cain Online Social Networking Issues Within Academia
and Pharmacy Education Am. J. Pharm. Ed. 2008; 72 (1) Article 10.

26Oct