How do online continuing education courses compare to live seminars?

You have probably discovered through the years that, as with just about everything in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to every available alternative. The decision whether to study via home study online courses or to attend live seminars is no exception to that rule. There is no single "one size fits all" answer to making this decision. You need to weigh the pros and cons of each option, and then decide which option best fits your individual learning style and circumstances.

Live seminars are good for people who prefer supervision and structure in their studies, where you have instant feedback and the ability to feel the work being performed on yourself from your fellow classmates. The size of the class will determine how much instructor feedback you will receive. Disadvantages are that you will pay higher tuition, lose revenue from missed work, and possibly having to cover travel expenses, meals and lodging away from home. You also run the risk of having classes cancelled with late notice due to lack of enrollment, or not having as many options available in the time frame that you need. That could force you to take something you are less interested in just to earn needed hours, or even not be able to meet deadlines and have to pay late renewal fees, with the possibility of having your license temporarily lapsed.

In comparison, there are many advantages with home study. With online courses, you can enroll today, and (depending on the course length) have your certificate in your hand today, with no delays. You have a full slate of courses that are available to fit your routine, your deadlines, and your preferences that are available 24/7 at your convenience. You never have to worry about blacking days off of your appointment book, or leaving home, which might entail expenses and possibly other inconveniences such as the inability to care for your family or pets. Since home study courses are generally less expensive than live seminars, not only do you save time and trouble, but you also save hard-earned money.

Of course, those advantages also come at a cost. You will not have an instructor standing over you; although depending on the size of the class, there is no guarantee that you will receive a lot of individual attention even in a live seminar. When you take a course through Institute of Somatic Therapy, we are available by phone or email to answer any questions that you have, but we acknowledge that there may be times when it is just not the same has having someone right there answering your questions.

Another consideration is the impact of comprehension and retention of the material. With a live seminar, you have a tremendous amount of information that comes at you during a short time, perhaps while you have lapsed into a daydream or have your attention diverted by other distractions. Studies indicate that the retention rate can be as low as 50% in a classroom situation, so when you leave, you are lucky if you gathered in half of what was delivered. Contrast this to home study, where you have the ability to study when you are ready to focus and are free of distractions, and where you can hit rewind to review the material as many times as you wish. Between working during your times of highest alertness coupled with the ability to review the material many times, the odds of you retaining a higher percentage of the material by home study learning is in your favor. Since you can review over and over again, with enough repetition, you can conceivably increase your retention rate as high as 100%. That should more than compensate for any real or perceived disadvantage of not having the instructor stand over you as you practice.

Our instructors have also taught many live seminars in addition to writing home study versions of their courses. We have found that just being in a live setting is no guarantee of competence on the part of the student, as there are some students who just have trouble grasping certain modalities because it doesn’t fall within their personal strengths. We have also had feedback from students of our home study courses who had studied the same modality in a live setting elsewhere, and told us that our courses were much more in-depth and that they learned more from our home study course than from the live seminar. There are so many variables that factor into a positive learning experience that it is impossible to absolutely rank one method over another.

You know yourself better than anyone else. When you read an article in a massage trade journal, or view a massage video, how well are you able to understand the material? When you are confined to a classroom for several consecutive eight-hour days, how well are you able to stay focused and absorb the material being presented? The answer to those questions will go a long way to helping you decide which option is best for you. Why not try our free course to help you get a feel for the home study process? You may well discover that the savings and convenience suit you just fine.