Online massage therapy schools are an alternative learning option for adult students, students with family obligations and students with other work commitments.
Not only is online learning gaining prevalence in society today it is actually being hailed as a better way to learn, according to several studies published in popular sources such as the New York Times. In most cases this is true, but for hands on medical training like massage therapy, there still needs to be a hands-on component.
This page will outline the differences between traditional learning with actual classes and online learning, the benefits and disadvantages of both and what to expect from these types of schools.
A study mentioned in the New York Times called “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies” found here, suggests that students learning through an online portal do better than in traditional face-to-face instruction. The study was conducted in different settings in colleges and adult learning programs of various kinds including medical and military training.
The reasons behind the increased efficacy of online learning stems mainly from the increased tailoring of the program to the individual’s learning habits. Online programs are more interactive than before with online chat systems, notice boards, web-based video tutorials and other collaboration tools.
These alone give the individual a better ability to learn at their own pace, reviewing and learning the material as much or as little as they need. Furthermore, when they require further explanations or help they can get a one on one focus through chat and instant message portals. Some even provide video conferencing.
Early in its development, online learning critics suggested that it would take away from the learning experience that we need to learn in a community. Yet, with the move towards large online social educational forums in these online schools, it is actually helping stimulate students helping students.
These online collaboration tools help students form an online community within each class, course, level or program linking knowledge and sharing it at a far greater speed than traditional classrooms could.
Advantages of Online Education
- Flexibility– besides mandated time-specific webinars, you can complete your coursework on your own schedule usually.
- Teacher Access – through instant messaging, email and community forums teacher access is generally higher than in traditional schools.
- Exciting Content – tired of boring lectures? Online learning provides a variety of learning formats from online surveys, questions and quizzes to interactive webinars and video tutorials to conference discussions and community forums to participate in.
Learning massage therapy online unfortunately can only take you so far. A massage therapy certification from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) requires you meet the individual state’s requirement for hands on training. This national certification requires 750 hours of education and 250 hours of hands on experience no more than 6 months from graduation.
The 250 hours of hands on experience is the portion of the learning experience that obviously cannot be done at home while sitting on your computer. This will require an actual hands-on learning experience that is best done either in an accredited program or under the guiding hands of a professional.
Many advocates of massage training online suggest that interactive demonstration videos can accomplish this. We disagree. The hands on component of your massage therapy curriculum should be one that is performed in person.
Note: There is no replacement for in-person practical experience even when attending accredited massage therapy schools online
Disadvantages of Online Learning
- Attention – in a formal classroom teachers keep the classrooms attention by direct interaction, staring at a computer can lull a person’s attention span.
- Face-to-face – body language can provide up to 80% of communication between teacher and student. This could provide clues to massage instructors as to a student’s limitations or issues, not noticeable in an online setting unless there’s proper video conferencing.
- More Time – a student could actually take more time to learn an online course because of their specific learning style than in-class lectures.
- Procrastination – the more independence gained from online learning is not always a bonus, as it can lead to missed learning and skipped assignments leading to a possible higher failure rate.
The benefits and disadvantages to learning online are apparent, especially within the massage therapy profession.
Blended learning is currently the accepted norm in professional massage therapy schools that purport online learning be a part of the learning process.
This blend of online and traditional classes allows students to gain flexibility in their schedule without giving up the most important part of the learning process for massage therapy, hands on learning. Online massage therapy schools still usually contain a traditional component.
Most schools now offer some form of a blended program for massage therapy, even if it is in addition to their full-time traditional offering. The blended programs offer:
- Some percentage of online coursework to be completed from 25% up to 100% of the required coursework to be done online.
- Generally, 100% of the required hands-on requirement is still done on-site at the school or at the placement after completion of the educational component.
- Some schools also offer some forms of away from school learning for the hands-on component, where you would be under the tutelage of a recognized, certified and qualified teacher in your location for the hands-on portion.
This blended program usually offers some sort of cost-savings over traditional full class programs, while at the same time offering flexibility and hands-on experience resulting in what most believe to be the best of both worlds.
Avoiding Massage Therapy Programs that are 100% Online
It should be noted that schools offering 100% online education for massage therapy are in the minority and those that offer online hands-on instruction are considered ill-advised. The NCBTMB requires “professional hands on” experience in order to qualify for certification.
Although you can possibly learn hands-on techniques online at your own pace from online instruction, it may not be accepted for certification purposes. Make sure that when you look for a blended, traditional, or mostly online school for your program that you consider the requirements properly for certification as it will affect your career path and timeline.
Online Massage Therapy schools are on the rise. Online learning in general is on the rise and its benefits are well proven out. However, there are still challenges that arise particularly in hands-on fields such as massage therapy.
It is always considered better to learn the hands-on portion directly from the program school or outside under professional guidance rather than trying to do it alone or through online teaching aides.
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