Online education continues to be on the rise. As of 2017, nearly 6.7 million students were enrolled in at least one remote learning course through a degree-granting postsecondary institution, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Changing needs of the adult learner population, along with advances in technology that make course delivery and online collaboration an easy and rewarding process for both students and faculty have combined to spur the development of online study options.
There are many degrees that readily lend themselves to an online format, but for some students, one question remains — is it possible to study for a health care profession online?
“The short answer is yes,” says Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Health Professions (TTUHSC SHP) Assistant Professor Matthew Geddie, director of the Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy program. “It does matter which professional direction you're headed. But most students probably do not realize just how many health care professions there are, much less how many you can pursue in this manner. Today, most health careers have some form of online study.”
Whether you are interested in beginning a career in a health care profession or you want to advance your current career in the health care field, it’s worth exploring whether an online degree or certificate might align with your goals. This is especially true if the combination of flexibility, accessibility and high-quality are at the top of your education wish list.
Benefits of Online Learning
If you are considering studying for a health care profession online, there are a wide variety of advantages offered by online study, including:
- Convenience: With classes that are accessible anyplace where internet access is available, there is no need to travel to a physical location to study and learn. Online education allows you to choose the place that is most conducive to your own learning style — whether that’s a public library, coffee shop or your own home. As for commuting time to and from school? Online learning makes that obsolete.
- Work-life balance: It is likely that your education is not your only priority. With online learning, you can take courses around your other commitments, from caregiver responsibilities to full or part-time work commitments.
- Professional experience: Often, the flexibility of an online degree will enable you to combine work and education more easily — that can actually be beneficial both to the learning process and your on-the-job performance. If you currently work in the field that you are studying in, you may be able to find opportunities to apply what you are learning directly and immediately to real-world workplace challenges.
- Cost savings: By choosing to study online, you can cut some of the costs that come with on-campus learning, from student housing fees to commuter fees and campus parking passes.
- Time savings: Some online programs offer condensed options that can save a student considerable time and get them into their next career position faster. For instance, in the Clinical Laboratory Second Degree B.S. online program at TTUHSC SHP, students with a science background can complete more courses per semester than the traditional, on-campus program, enabling them to complete the same curriculum in one year instead of two.
While anyone can choose to study online, this method of learning can be particularly helpful for students who are returning to school after a time away.
“For students coming back to school, online programs are a really good option,” Geddie says. “The schedule flexibility and the ability to work at least part-time makes it a lot easier for someone who is already working to further their education.”
Navigating Hands-on Training
For many health care professions, hands-on experience is critical. Whether setting a splint or recording a patient’s medical history, many important techniques need to be practiced to fully master the skill.
Getting hands-on experience can be challenging when it comes to online study — but creative solutions are making it possible to acquire and practice necessary skills. For instance, to help ensure students master important hands-on skills in TTUHSC SHP’s online programs, many faculty members make use of a video platform called Panopto. The technology enables students to video themselves performing hands-on techniques and then send those videos back as assignments. Their professors watch the recordings and then provide evaluation and feedback as needed.
“This method is really helpful for physical techniques like transfers, handling, splinting and assessment provision, as well as client-therapist interactions. We can assess the questions a student uses, their non-verbal communication and other strategies,” Geddie says. “Students may also be asked to try something with a client or other volunteer, then report their own self-assessment of how things went.”
Internships and hands-on projects are also important components in TUHSC SHP’s online programs. Sometimes, an on-campus experience is integrated into the online curriculum. In TTUHSC SHP’s Clinical Laboratory Science online post-baccalaureate option, students come on campus twice a year to spend a full week in the lab learning and practicing laboratory skills. In programs that support first-time or entry-level practice, students generally complete internships with support from the school. In other programs where students have already established experience and are working to further their careers, they will typically participate in a culminating project, which is usually completed in their current work environment.
An example is Geddie’s Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy program. Designed for practicing occupational therapists who want to take their careers to the next level, the course curriculum includes a capstone project that aligns with students’ professional interests and goals. Other online offerings at TUHSC SHP include:
- Addiction Counseling (M.S.)
- Healthcare Management (B.S)
- Healthcare Administration (M.S.)
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling (M.S.)
- Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling
- Physical Therapy (ScD)
- Clinical Laboratory Science (Post-Baccalaureate Certificate)
Take the Next Step at TTUHSC SHP
If you are ready to advance in a health care profession and want to explore if online study can fit your goals, contact the TTUHSC School of Health Professions Office of Admissions and Student Affairs at email@example.com or phone (806-743-3220).