Online training or not online? That is the question

I have been an educator for over 10 years teaching complementary therapies and have also been involved in setting standards of practice for the Reflexology Core Curriculum. For many years all was well with standards of training and guided learning hours, but these standards were written before the development of internet courses, which may on the surface comply with the learning hours but do not fulfil the need for a student learning a practical skill. It is with this in mind that I hope to give direction to potential students in the currently confusing world of therapy training in the UK, with guidance on which courses are most suitable for delivery online, which needs face to face training in a classroom and therefore, which courses best suits your needs.

What is the problem?

Over the past few years, slowly but surely we have seen an increase in online courses for complementary therapies. In principle there is nothing wrong with this and yes, there are many reputable online theoretical courses out there, including some we deliver ourselves at Complementary Health Professionals where it is possible. It makes the work accessible and so more user friendly and it also gives us control in our hectic lifestyles. By working at home at our own pace online courses may better suit our needs regarding the commitment of our time when trying to balance studies with work and family life. Some courses can and do work very well online as long as they give direction for research to improve our theoretical understanding in order to ensure a sound working knowledge. They also require the use of a Virtual Learning Environment where along with course material and other resources, it is possible to show tutorials and video clips to substantiate knowledge followed up with the backup of online tutor support. This is a credible system that can work very efficiently in today's hectic world to allow the time it takes us as an individual to understand and learn new concepts and ideas in our own time. However, how can it ever be possible to learn and develop the practical skills to effectively treat clients when you never once meet a tutor, nor have your skills assessed before launching yourself onto the unsuspecting public? The truth is that for the bodywork therapies and for many of the mind therapies it simply cannot. Where you need to develop a skill that goes along with your therapy, such as massage or reflexology, you have to have face to face contact with your tutor in order to become competent in your craft. Let's face it, would you want to go to a dentist or chiropractor who had done all of their training online only?

I have found myself wondering what purpose these online ‘professional’ diplomas courses with a

practical element needed but no contact hours actually serve. They may look effective and easy to follow but they do not allow for individual learning or development of the skills required to become a competent therapist. Sure, they provide a video showing you a technique but who is going to correct you if you pick up bad habits and teach you how to adapt your technique for the individual needs of your client? In essense; they don't and my concern is that unsuspecting people will buy these courses but never be able to become successul practitioners. It also pull down the standards of our profession as clients may go to someone who has never attended a single class and think that all massage therapists, aromatherapists and reflexologists are that bad. Also, when we consider learning, students work at different paces; some have inherent skills and will need help with adapting their posture and stance (for their own health and wellbeing) whilst others need guidance with pressures and precision, pin pointing areas of the body. Human beings are clearly not all one shape and size so how can that be factored in to an online course? This is why, in my opinion, practical skills can only ever be taught and effectively learnt in a classroom environment.

Photo shows Julia Wood, CHP Director and Massage Tutor demonstrating advanced massage techniques