tips for CE instructors navigating remote education
tips for CE instructors navigating remote education

Tips from Massage CE Instructors

Tips from Massage CE Instructors

This article is written by Scott Raymond, BCTMB, LMT; Dr. Susan Salvo, EdD, BCTMB, LMT; and Demara Stamler, LMT, for the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. 

Distance learning has seen a significant increase during the COVID crisis.  As learners navigate through the evolving distance learning options, we asked three NCBTMB Approved Providers how learners can get the most out of their education experience.

Scott Raymond, BCTMB, LMT, Southington, CT; Dr. Susan Salvo, EdD, BCTMB, LMT, Lake Charles, LA; and Demara Stamler, LMT, Burke, VA answered NCBTMB’s questions from our distance learners.

What are the advantages of distance learning courses? Are the advantages different depending on synchronous or asynchronous learning?

Salvo: “Distance learning allows learners to connect beyond the geographic limitations of in-person learning. This gives learners access to courses and networks that may not otherwise be offered within the person’s region. One advantage with synchronous learning is real-time interaction with educators and fellow colleagues. One advantage with asynchronous learning is re-watching or re-listening to a section of the recorded lesson.”

Raymond: “For live webinars, you can take a class with someone motivating or inspiring without traveling.  Hybrid classes with some people remote and some people in class are a good choice, as well. These hybrid classes meet the different needs of learners.  If you want immediate feedback and a deeper experience, opt for synchronous learning. For classes where you don’t need immediate feedback or if you’re taking the class to fill your CE requirements, asynchronous works.”

Stamler: “Asynchronous learning has the advantage of the student being able to take the course when time permits, within reason.  They’re not locked into a specific day and time they must attend class.  Additionally, they can re-listen to the recordings (where applicable) at their leisure.  

What should learners look for when choosing distance learning courses?

Salvo: “When selecting distance learning courses, learners should consider a constellation of factors, including but not limited to the instructor, utility of the content, availability of help or office hours, cost, delivery platform and its ease of use, time requirements, and use of the course credit (i.e., license renewal).  If possible, choose a multimodal learning platform. ‘Mode’ is the manner or way something is experienced or done. The main learning modes are (1) reading, (2) listening, and (3) watching.  So, factor in your own learning preference.”

Stamler: “The key factors to look for are the complexity of the course in relation to their comfort and ability to learn in that environment.  They may also want to take into consideration whether the course is synchronous or asynchronous as they assess their comfort level with the complexity of the material.  Understanding their preferred method of taking in information is important.”

Raymond: “Do your research. Look for classes in areas that inspire you.  The NCBTMB provider directory is a great place to start because it allows you to search for classes on topics that interest you and you can specify distance learning.  When researching a class, look at the website and social media of the instructor. That can tell you a lot about what to expect from an online course. Is the content consistent and well organized? If so, the instructor’s online presence should reflect that.  Make sure there is a way to contact the instructor. Also, always research the reputation of the educator writing and teaching the courses to determine if this is someone you want to learn from. Do not be afraid to contact providers and ask questions about the class. You can always take educators out for a ‘test drive,’ so to speak, if they have shorter online classes or YouTube videos available.”

How should learners prepare for their distance learning experience, including setting up their learning environment and dedicating time to the class, for example?

Stamler: “For synchronous learning, learners need to familiarize themselves with the delivery method.  Have someone show them how the system works, what equipment they will need and test their microphone and speakers ahead of time.  If they don’t have someone who can show them, there are YouTube videos that can be very helpful.  Understand that learners may need to be on camera throughout the class unless otherwise instructed.  Rarely will they be expected to dress up or look a certain way, but they will have to be on camera.  Many learners are uncomfortable with this.  If this is a serious concern, they will need to email the instructor to see if there is a way to verify their attendance and participation without being on camera.”  

Salvo: “Learners should determine realistic needs for successful learning outcomes, including adequate time to complete all components of the coursework and accountability planning to keep students motivated. Everyone needs to establish reliable access to the internet, obtain any required reading materials in a format best suited to their learner preference, and practice with the platform through which the materials will be delivered. Next, design your learning space and make sure you have good lighting and can minimize distractions. Wear comfortable clothes and keep water or your favorite beverage close.  There have been several studies indicating the size of the screen matters when reading or watching a video, so avoid a handheld device if possible and use your computer or tablet instead.” 

Raymond: “Because the classroom is also probably in your home or office, you need to be present in two environments at the same time.  Take time to transition into and out of classroom mode at the beginning and end of class. If your mind wanders during class, acknowledge it, write it down and bring yourself back to the class—much like meditation.”

What suggestions do you have for learners in establishing a relationship with instructors in a distance learning course?

Stamler: “Remember that the instructor cares about the material, wants you to succeed, and probably is missing the direct connection that comes in the physical classroom.  Most instructors are happy to hear from you and happy to help you in whatever way they can to complete the course.  They also want you to enjoy it and get the most out of it as possible.  An email before or after the class with any thoughts or appreciations is always welcome.  Establishing a relationship with the instructor in a distance learning course is just as important as in the physical classroom.  If you don’t ask, we can’t help.”

Raymond: “It depends on the topic. Sometimes, you won’t need a relationship with the instructor because the topic is not as interesting to you and that’s OK. If you do want a connection, you should feel comfortable emailing or calling them. Reach out with questions, follow up, stay in touch. If it’s a class that you are passionate about, seek out the instructor and you will connect through the topic and the learning process.  Reach out after the class to ask questions. You are never bothering an educator.”

Salvo: “I suggest learners contact the instructors via email or messaging app to comment about the course and ask questions. Ask the instructor if resources not mentioned in the course are available and if they have a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel.  Lastly, ask instructors what their favorite blog, podcast, or YouTube channel is.”  

What suggestions do you have for learners who want to supplement their distance learning experience?

Salvo: “Learners seeking to supplement distance learning should consider volunteer and networking opportunities in their region to practice their application and to meet with and gain knowledge from others in their field.”

Stamler: “If the instructor hasn’t already provided them with outside resources, the learner should ask them for suggestions.”

Raymond: “Always look at the references section of the course material. Ask the educator where the information from the class came from, and make sure you are always using good quality reputable sites for additional information. Find out who inspired your instructor and seek out those people as well. You can ask the instructor for recommendations and referrals.”

Is there anything else you would like to share about making the most of the distance learning experience?

Salvo: “A common struggle for some learners with distance models is the lack of real-time engagement, which can create a tendency to superficially ‘click through’ the material without meaningful processing and can lead to non-completion due to lack of social accountability that comes with in-person classes.  However, these struggles are squarely on the shoulders of the learner and are something a learner needs to assess about themselves and develop strategies for overcoming any obstacles.”

Raymond: “Distance learning should be a first class experience.  You should feel like you had the opportunity to take an online course rather than feeling that you had to take an online course. Always try to take a class on something that inspires you.” If you are looking for the highest quality continuing education in the profession, consult the NCBTMB Approved Provider Directory. Search thousands of courses by topic from hundreds of continuing education providers throughout the country.   

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