Online Courses Open Learning Opportunities

Training programs on the internet have become a convenient and popular resource for providers and their staff members.

At 10 p.m., Mary, a nurse assistant at a rural long term care center, puts her son to bed, then sits on her bed with her laptop to finish an educational program that she needs to complete her certification requirements.

Two days later, her colleague, John, eats his lunch and reviews a program about pressure ulcers on his tablet. He had completed the program previously, but the center recently admitted two residents with pressure ulcers, and he wants to brush up on the topic.

Elsewhere, at a care center 1,200 miles away, a new certified nurse assistant (CNA) at a national skilled nursing center chain is studying the same program to gain the knowledge she needs to care for her residents.

The Distant Past

Twenty or even 10 years ago, these scenarios would have been unlikely, if not impossible. Few nurse assistants or even nurses had widespread access to computers. Even if they had a desktop model or laptop at home, they likely had to share it with their spouses and children.

As computer prices have dropped over the years and many can afford a laptop, tablet, or phone with internet access, online education has become a common and popular way for long term care centers to train CNAs, nurses, and others.

Just last year, the nursing department at Bethel University and technology vendor Academic Platforms asked the American Health Care Association (AHCA) if it could utilize its “How to be a Nurse Assistant” curriculum for an online education initiative. The plan was for Bethel to put the content into an online format that nursing students could access as a baseline course.

Now that the curriculum is online, AHCA is offering it to providers who want an online training course for their CNAs.

Evolution Of Online Learning

As the cost of technology has dropped and adult learners increasingly have sought at-home learning opportunities, online education has become a popular option. The U.S. National Center for Education Statistics says that more than half of all two- and four-year degree-granting institutions offer online learning courses for all types of students.

The growth of online course offerings between 2004 and 2005 alone is estimated at 35 percent. A 2013 report by Babson Survey Research documented that more than 6.7 million post-secondary students were enrolled in at least one online class in 2011, compared with 1.6 million in 2002. Today, many colleges and universities offer entire degrees via online programs. The advantages of online learning for CNAs and other staff include scheduling flexibility and the ability of learners to control their study time and focus more on the topics they need or want to address. People who are more introverted may feel more comfortable interacting with instructors via online discussions or messaging.