Evaluating Continuing Education Provider
In Volume 1, Number 1 of Massage Today, I gave an
overview of continuing education, emphasizing the importance of lifelong learning. We also explored some of the reasons adults often resist taking classes mainly from a perspective of our past (and mostly negative) experiences in learning environments. Another reason for this resistance is that many practitioners resent the oft-seeming arbitrary number and type of CE hours required to stay in practice. This often leads to a mad dash at the end of a term to get in those #%!* hours. Indeed, continuing education becomes about fulfilling requirements and not about learning. At this stage, many therapists search out courses that meet the basic qualifications and require minimal effort, time and cost. Other therapists carefully consider their continuing education and plan accordingly. Yet even the most prepared therapists can find themselves caught being several hours short. Knowing how to evaluate CE providers is helpful, regardless of the reasons for taking continuing education courses. After all, it is your time and money that you are investing.
The depth, breadth, and overall quality of continuing education courses vary greatly. Do proper research before enrolling in any course, whether it's a "live" workshop or a distance-learning class. The key aspect is the credibility of the company and the individual facilitating the course. The following steps guide you in ascertaining credibility:
- Review the marketing materials (e.g., advertisements, brochures, web site): Do the materials project a professional image? Are the courses clearly defined with specific objectives? Are the testimonials believable and are they from real people (not a vague reference such as "J.R. from Dallas")? Does the company offer any type of satisfaction guarantee or quality assurance?
- Investigate the business history: How long has the company (or individual) been in business? How many classes have been given? How many people have taken courses? What are the qualifications of the person leading the classes (or the developer of a distance-learning course)? What are the professional affiliations held? Has the company/individual received any awards? Does the company/individual have credentialling status (e.g., an approved NCBTMB category A provider)?
- Obtain references: Get feedback from others who have taken courses by this provider. The CE provider should give you names and contact information from past participants keep in mind that the referrals will most likely be slightly biased (those lists are usually comprised of happy customers). Talk with your colleagues. If you are registered with an online newsgroup, you can request support from the members. Ask specific questions such as the following:
- How easy was it to contact the provider about the course?
- What did you like the most about the course?
- What did you like the least about the course?
- What was the instructor's teaching style?
- Were the course materials (e.g., handouts, manuals, videos) beneficial and of high quality?
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the overall value of this course?
- Did you learn what you expected to learn?
- Were agreements kept?
- Were you given a frameable certificate upon completion?
- Do you think this was the best way to learn this subject? Why? Why not?
- What is the likelihood of you taking another course from this company?
In subsequent issues we explore what constitutes a good distance-learning course, CE administration/tracking, effective ways to critique (or complain about) CEU offerings that don't deliver as advertised, how to determine your most appropriate learning environment, and how to prepare yourself before attending a class.
Please feel free to contact me with questions or suggestions.