Online Education – How Does It Work?

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woman face binary code backgroundMany of the accredited medical assistant programs now offer some online or distance learning courses. This gives potential students the opportunity to take advantage of the convenience and flexibility of learning through the Internet and enhancing their experience. Online courses have literally exploded over the last two decades. It can be difficult to sum up the distance learning experience because so many schools are offering online classes with variations in their delivery models.

All course requirements are included in an online course portal to which the students will be given access. These requirements will often include:

  • Power point presentations
  • Video lessons
  • Links to textbooks and important articles
  • Online tests and quizzes and other learning activities

The video above shows an example of an online course offered through Rasmussen college. As you can see, this particular portal provides important course information, a sample lesson, an assignment calendar, student/instructor email links, discussion areas, announcements, assignment uploads, free technicl support, and continuous availability. Most programs also give students access to online libraries and article databases, in addition to support services such as tutoring or writing assistance.

The next video shows what an online course portal looks like at Whatcom community college. This video was a little more specific to the school itself, but the sample lesson showed how an online course can still give students in-depth knowledge of anatomy through the use of technology. The video also discussed how students and instructors interact with one another. These interactions can be achieved in a variety of ways including recorded lectures, online discussions, blogs, virtual meetings, email communication, phone calls, teleconferencing, and even online office hours with chat availability. Discussion forums and group chats also facilitate student to student interactions to build camaraderie and collaboration.

What should I expect when enrolling in online medical assistant class?

The coursework in a medical assistant program is quite in-depth. Therefore, you should be organized as well as prepared to spend a lot of time studying and completing your work. Students who have gone through online programs recommend using flash cards, study groups, and various other learning strategies.

Your classes will range from anatomy and physiology to medical terminology and office management. Different classes require different learning activities and assessments. For example, a course on diseases might require you to work in a group and complete a project such as creating a brochure directed at those at risk for diabetes. An office management course may require you to take typing tests until you are typing at a minimum of 50 words per minute. Medical terminology requires memorization of words and word parts, which will lead to many online multiple choice and short answer quizzes or tests. You can also expect to write numerous papers throughout your program. However, most of these will be able to be conveniently emailed to your professors online.

A typical online class has assignment deadlines each week. There will be a specific learning module that you will go through each week. One week’s module might include a power point presentation, a recorded video lecture, some reinforcement activity, an online multiple choice quiz on the required reading, and a discussion board or short paper due by the week’s end. The next week might include further reading, an interactive presentation with links to outside resources, a group project on theories of management and an online timed unit exam. Most often you will be able to access your learning materials and course work at any time that is convenient for you provided that you have Internet access. However, an instructor may occasionally require something like a group chat where everyone is online at the same time.

In addition to reading and learning about all of the necessary information, medical assisting is also a very hands-on career. You might be wondering how one is supposed to learn things that require practical experience such as drawing blood, venipuncture, and other clinical procedures. That’s where hybrid or blended learning comes in. It generally combines online classes with some on-campus or face-to-face coursework.

Some programs will pair the online courses with complementary on-site laboratory work throughout the semester, while other schools will allow you to take all of the on-site work near the end of your program before your externship. For example, in a paired online/laboratory course on pharmacology, you will learn about medicines online and then practice by giving injections to your classmates in the lab. You will also have to do in-person clinical assessments. So if you are being assessed in the lab on a gluteal injection, you will be asked to identify where the injection should be given, why it should be given there, and then go through the process of actually giving the shot to a patient.

What to look for in an online / hybrid program

what to look for in a medical assistant online programSchool Qualifications

The first thing you should look for in an online program is the appropriate accreditation. If a program is accredited by the CAAHEP or the ABHES, then you will be eligible to sit for the medical assistant certification exams and your credits may even transfer to another program. However, even though a school’s online courses will transfer, just as an on-campus coursework would, not all accredited programs accept each other’s transfer work. It is always best to check with the school you are interested in transferring to in order to see what courses it will and will not accept.

Online courses should be functional and user-friendly for the students. Therefore, as a potential student, you should consider attending a school that is up to date in order to ensure that their online course software meets the standards. Laboratory facilities should also feature recent innovations in technology, equipment, and resources. This is vital to knowing that your training is current and cutting edge, as well as that it meets best practice standards.

Instructor Qualifications

Instructors should be well-qualified, either currently working in their field or with years of experience behind them. An instructor should be very open about his or her experience and qualifications and should be easily accessible by phone or email. An instructor should always respond to student questions or inquiries within 48-hours or less.

Financial Aid

An accredited medical assistant program should allow you to use federal financial aid to enroll in its programs, regardless of whether the program is online or on-campus. Some programs also offer scholarships or other need-based institutional aid.

Remember, any appropriately accredited school will offer you a program that works well for you.  So, if you are decent at navigating technology and have regular access to the Internet, an online/blended program is a smart choice. Finding out about financial aid, instructor qualifications, how the courses work, and what agency accredits the program can lead you in the right direction. Just be prepared to work hard, stay organized, study, and take your work seriously.