Medical Students’ Technology Use for Self-Directed Learning: Contributing and Constraining Factors

Binbin Zheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: With medical education shifting towards competency-based models, medical students are expected to be self-directed lifelong learners. There is an urgent need to understand what technology students adopt for self-directed learning and what factors contributed to students’ self-initiated technology use. Method: This study took place in a midwestern university medical school, which implements a flipped classroom model where students are required to learn all the course materials independently before class. Twenty-six first- and second-year medical students participated in a semi-structured interview about their self-directed learning with technology, and contributing factors towards technology use. A qualitative description methodology using thematic analysis was used to identify key themes from the interview data. Results: Medical students reported using four types of technologies for learning video resources, self-assessment tools, management tools, and social media. Three key determinants of students’ self-directed technology use were identified, including perceived usefulness, subjective norms, and educational compatibility. Conclusions: By probing medical students’ self-initiated technology use and its determinants, this study suggested that in a self-directed learning environment, medical students used a variety of third-party resources to facilitate learning and develop self-directed learning skills. This study also provided important practical implications to better support students’ productive use of technologies for self-directed learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-156
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Science Educator
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Educational compatibility
  • Perceived usefulness
  • Self-directed learning
  • Self-directed technology use


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