Angela Kanavel is completing her first year in the O&P master’s program at Eastern Michigan University (EMU), Ypsilanti. What she likes about learning online is being able to take the courses when it is best for her, which makes it easier to work around obligations such as family or work, she says. It allows students to take the course and professors to teach the course without even having to be in the same state. There is no need to cancel or miss class because of illness or weather, she says. The cons include being unable to get the necessary hands-on experience after learning the technique in class that is critical in O&P, and a lack of interaction between peers and teachers.
For Brian Emling, also a first-year student at EMU, which utilizes the Internet for initial presentation of material while maintaining a more traditional format for core learning, the stress pertaining to the balance of note taking and active listening is diminished with online learning. “Anyone with a meandering attention span will appreciate EMU’s educational approach,” he says. “Since lectures are recorded with the accompanying presentations, I can pull up the lecture immediately following class and address unclear material.”
There are disadvantages as well, he says, especially regarding the social aspect of education. “It is vital to my success as a practitioner,” Emling says. “O&P is a social profession. Peer-to-peer, face-to-face communication is essential to the developing genuine patient interaction skills.”
There are the technical issues as well, he says. Complications concerning file formats have caused a few hiccups, and general technology downfalls such as a server being down are a headache, he says.
Allison Ruta, in her last semester at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, O&P master’s program, says the advantage of an online education is the flexibility and convenience it provides. It also doesn’t cost as much as traditional education, she says. “Students miss out on questions posed, interactive learning activities, and discussions that occur in the classroom,” Ruta says.
Students as well as teachers, also miss out on the interaction that traditional, seated learning provides. Poor technology from unreliable Internet connections to old computers to utilizing unfamiliar computer software, puts online learning at a disadvantage for some students and professors, she says.