WhatsApps as a platform for virtual teaching in Imaging in times of COVID-19

WhatsApps como plataforma para la enseñanza virtual en Imagenología en tiempos de la COVID-19



Leidelén Esquivel Sosa1*
Maryla Martínez-Fortún Amador2
Madyaret Águila Carbelo2
Elio Llerena Rodríguez2


1 Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. "José Luis Miranda" University teaching Pediatric Hospital. Santa Clara. Villa Clara. Cuba.
2 Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. "Arnaldo Milián Castro" University teaching Clínical-Surgical Hospital. Santa Clara. Villa Clara. Cuba.


* Author for correspondence. E-mail:




The pandemic produced by the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus led to the implementation of measures for isolation and physical and social distancing in the world and particularly in Cuba. The WhatsApps application has characteristics that justify its use in postgraduate teaching in Imaging, as a virtual modality, for which the "Radiology" group was created, made up of teachers and residents of different hospitals in Cuba and other countries; This platform made it possible to maintain and promote teaching in times of pandemic with real cases of COVID-19 and other diseases that were analyzed in this way. It is the objective of the authors to share their experiences as they are novel, feasible, stable and well accepted in the teaching-learning process.

MeSH: coronavirus infections; imaging, three-dimensional; information technologies and communication projects; education, medical.


La pandemia producida por el coronavirus SARS-COV-2 provocó la implementación de medidas para el aislamiento y el distanciamiento físico y social en el mundo y particularmente en Cuba. La aplicación WhatsApps posee características que justifican su uso en la enseñanza de posgrado en Imagenología, como modalidad virtual, por lo que se creó el grupo "Radiología" formado por docentes y residentes de diferentes hospitales en Cuba y otros países; esta plataforma permitió mantener y potenciar la docencia en tiempos de pandemia con casos reales de la COVID-19 y otras enfermedades que fueron analizadas por esta vía. Es objetivo de los autores compartir sus experiencias por ser novedosas, factibles, estables y bien aceptadas en el proceso enseñanza aprendizaje.

DeSC: infecciones por coronavirus; imagenología tridimensional; proyectos de tecnologías de información y comunicación; educación médica.



Submitted: 12/07/2020
Accepted: 21/07/2020



The current pandemic produced by SARS-COV-2 caused the disease known as COVID-19 which produced in the world, particularly in Cuba, the implementation of measures for physical and social isolation and distancing. These led to a pause in conventional medical teaching and led to the search for new ways to maintain a standard in normal teaching practices.(1)

In previous similar situations, multiple forms of exchange with students were used, which allowed maintaining a teacher-student link. Some of them were more used as videoconferences, virtual meetings, and use of websites and / or power point with voice recorded on a certain platform.(2) At the present time this fact does not ostensibly differ from the strategies adopted in different countries, taking into account the existence of unequal development standards and with it the selection of different ways and forms. All or several of these options could be used in university or hospital institutions with the necessary resources, but the situation is very different in some universities or hospitals in Latin America due to the region's own shortcomings.(3)

Distance learning medical education allows teaching and evaluating the dimensions of medicine not related to human contact: scientific knowledge or the algorithms of clinical reasoning as it has been developing for years in the world.(4) This type of virtual teaching constitutes a challenge for managers, professors and students at the university, due to the necessary support for its implementation. The availability of the internet, the ability of the teacher to teach distance courses, the management of virtual platforms by students and teachers, and academic and technological support at the university, among many other factors, are essential.(3)

Distance training evolves at the same time that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) develop. Teaching needs expand and diversify, to which immediacy and continuous updating are added as essential factors.(5)

Distance medical teaching has obvious limitations as it is insufficient to support holistic professional learning;(4) however, the performance of synchronous activities can have a positive influence, favor a more direct contact and a more effective supervision of the teacher and the student.(2)

From a methodological point of view, in clinical practice there are educational formats with less or greater impact. Small group interactive and case-based learning have been shown to have the greatest impact. Paradoxically, lectures or written materials alone do not produce great changes in medical practice. There are four elements that contribute to the development of teaching and learning strategies through the use of ICT:(6)



Achieving an adequate use of ICT and stability of the selected path allows them to be implemented efficiently. Besides this, the visual has a greater consumption than the textual and the students consider convenient technology-based solutions to support learning and assessment, as well as communication tools between peers.(4,7)

In Cuba, the limitation of classroom teaching during the pandemic led teachers to adapt or reinvent old formulas to the context of current circumstances . The Imaging specialty was not exempt from this, adding the great practical component that it has in the services of conventional radiology, ultrasound, computerized axial tomography and magnetic resonance as basic elements in its training.

The world is experiencing a growing trend towards the use of the Internet that allows a greater coverage and scope of distance learning medical education, in comparison with the traditional one, (6) with access to dissimilar platforms and use of applications, which constitutes a feasible, stable and interesting way for teaching exchange. Finding the right method is vital to maintaining an interesting form of interaction.

WhatsApps Messenger is a messaging application, available for Android and other smartphones. Use the internet connection (4G/3G/2G/ EDGE or Wi-Fi when possible) from a mobile phone to send and receive messages, calls, photos, videos, documents, voice messages. It allows you to form groups, but it is neither a social network, nor it allows you to belong to large communities or read information, opinions or assessments of unknown people.

These characteristics justify the selection of this application in postgraduate teaching in Imaging: it only allows receiving messages from contacts, it does not disclose advertising and it accepts information in photos, videos and texts, making it appropriate for teaching. The images are the basis of this specialty, the photos and videos of x-rays, ultrasounds, computed axial tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, associated to a specific clinical picture, allow diagnostic discussions in virtual ward rounds with topics within the content of the specialty.

The "Radiology" WhatsApp group in Villa Clara is made up of teachers from different hospitals, imaging residents, foreign graduates from different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and includes doctors who are fulfilling an internationalist mission. This diversity strengthened teaching with real, national and international cases, including studies of COVID-19 from countries with a high rate of infection, which contributed to an imaging preparation before the pandemic spread in Cuba.

The characteristics of the group show the four criteria for the development of teaching and learning strategies through ICT, which are evident in the formation of this teaching group: when presenting a case (complying with medical ethics) there is a Asynchronous activity, the selection of a specific time for group debate with the participation of the majority generates a synchronous activity, in the exchange with members from different countries who support the discussion with criteria and images, geographic dispersion is manifested, and collaborative activities online are enhanced with updated bibliography. This exchange was daily during the forced social isolation. Teaching ward rounds using WhatsApps must constitute a tool that lasts beyond the current moment.

Special situations like pandemics are opportunities to set priorities and develop new methods; Without ceasing to renew traditional forms of the educational process, these experiences must be enhanced because they are more modern, generate individual exchange, are feasible to handle, stable and interesting for their users, and favor an steady development in medical teaching quality. The creation of groups through WhatsApps is a proven way and it´s a platform for virtual teaching in Imaging or in any other specialty of medical sciences where it is applied; this criteria is endorsed by the experience of these authors.



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Declaration of interests

The authors declare no conflict interest.



Contribution of the authors

Leidelén Esquivel Sosa: carried out web searches, analyzed the bibliography and wrote the draft.
Maryla Martínez-Fortún Amador, Madyaret Águila Carbelo y Elio Llerena Rodríguez: carried out web searches, analyzed the bibliography and agreed with the draft.



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