As the popularity and prevalence of going to college online increases, it is natural for a student or potential student entering into a program that requires the mastery of clinical skills and competencies to wonder how it is possible to achieve this in an online setting. In addition, many students are fearful of the online learning format. Well, wonder and fear no more! Two of the most commonly voiced fears and hesitations are going to be addressed and (hopefully) alleviated in this blog posting.
Q: How will I adjust to the online classroom when I am used to learning in a traditional classroom with a real, live teacher?
A: Online learning is much more interactive today than it has been historically. Instructors and fellow students are invaluable to the learning process. Not only are instructors available to assist and tutor, but the students often bounce questions and ideas off of one another. The lectures are accompanied by lecture notes and voice-overs for a feel that mimics a live classroom. Email and live chats are also tools utilized by many students when questions or concerns arise. Furthermore, many institutions have faculty members that devote time specifically to tutoring students who require a bit more attention.
Q: How will I learn to be a competent clinician if I take classes online with no one to show me how skills (like injections!) (like phlebotomy!) (like vital signs!) are performed?
A: Just as students adjust to online learning for knowledge that is not clinically based, so begins the learning process for clinical skills. Notice, I said begins... there are lectures, video links and instructors available to guide the student through the student through the theory of the skill to be learned. Once the student has read the material, watched others perform the skills virtually, and asked as many questions as needed, he or she will come to a campus for "competency days" dedicated solely to mastery of the actual skill at hand. For example, a student may learn to properly wash her hands, put on a gown and set up for a minor surgical procedure with an instructor present. The student will then be given the opportunity to demonstrate that she is capable of performing this skill to a level deemed appropriate by the instructor. This is part of the grade for a skills based course.
Medical Assisting, being a skills based occupation, clearly requires both the online learning environment and the demonstration of skills in front of an instructor. Incidentally, many nursing programs are moving to this exact format to educate nurses to be. In my opinion, a student who is dedicated and applies him/herself to learning in this environment WILL be successful.