Paramedics are weird beasts. Many exhibit signs of ADHD. They cannot stand a structured work environment. By their very nature they are drawn towards Public Service. Nothing is ever entirely repetitive and the work is stimulating. This type of personality is common in EMS, which makes educating them a bit of a challenge.
It is hard to keep them focused. It’s even harder to keep them focused and involved in refresher education. This is of course the review of material that is not very new. It can be so boring it’s sometimes hard to pay attention. I’ve seen many glazed-over eyes in refresher classes.
My last refresher was in a classroom. Most of the material was repetitive. The chairs were uncomfortable and I had to drive 45 minutes one-way just to get there. Since I also had to work full time this made for a lot of very long days.
In the early days of online education I worked for one of the first continuing EMS education websites called EMInet. The content at the time was basically slides you read onscreen, followed by a multiple-choice quiz. Frankly, it was really boring.
Today we have much better online education options. I recently signed up for the 48-hour Paramedic Refresher on DistanceCME.com. I’ve been really surprised by how much I like it. I’ve concluded this is as good as any other way to teach the required course material.
They use the iLink online platform. It has a lot of cool features. Even on my old rural copper phone line dsl connection, it works well almost all of the time. Audio is crisp and the video streams very nicely.
You listen to a real live instructor. In the top left corner you see a picture of the instructor. Sometime they even stream video of themselves speaking. Usually they just use audio only along with the slides.
On the main right hand side of the screen you see the same Jones & Barlett PowerPoint slides you would see in typical a brick & mortar class. The instructor lectures while being able to both play and highlight on the slides. They can even draw on the graphics to call attention to specific structures onscreen.
When the material warrants a video clip, they can stream the pertinent video instantly. There is not much delay waiting for an instructor to cue-up a tape. There is a seamless flow of multi-media along with the lecture.
On the left side of the screen you have a list of your fellow online students. You also have an instant message box everyone can use to communicate publically or privately with other students or the instructor. The instructor frequently asks questions and the students can respond with instant messages.
Participants often make comments or share experiences during the classes. Everybody is passing notes to each other, without getting sent to the principles office. It makes for a dynamic and involving experience.
This all takes place in the comfort of my own home on my schedule. They offer each of the 24 two-hour classes on a rotating basis. If you miss a class you can usually pick it up the same week. You don’t really have to take them in order.
I’m really surprised how much I like the online experience. The only thing you give up online is the social interaction. You don’t get to meet and see your fellow students. That can be very valuable, particularly when you are networking for job opportunities.
But that is the only sacrifice I perceive. Everything else works just like a real classroom. The user gets a great education while lying on their home sofa. It’s really pretty hard to beat.
In a traditional classroom there is so much wasted time. Time driving, time filing into class, time waiting for tapes or slides to be set-up, time waiting for exams. In an online class there is little or no waiting ever. You log on and jump right in.
Going in I was a little worried it would be less satisfying than a real class. I’ve taken 14 of 24 online classes so far and I’m really surprised how much I like them. It is at least as good as any of the other many refreshers I’ve taken. It may even be better.
Distance CME also has other programs. The next I want to take is the Critical Care Course. They also have a National Registry Review program for those prepping for the test. If they are anywhere near as good as the 48-hour Refresher I’m sure I will enjoy them.