By now most massage therapists and bodyworkers are aware they often have the option of attending continuing education courses online, via the Internet. In the past, people have questioned the validity of online classes, but the technological trends and advances of recent years have placed Internet classes nearly on par with those courses taken in traditional brick-and-mortar buildings.

For those in the field of healing touch, this can be a good thing, as it means one can enroll in and attend a wide variety of continuing education classes without ever having to spend money on fuel or transportation. In general, opting for online education can also mean more flexibility to work around one’s existing schedule and lifestyle. Another common benefit is continuing education taken online tends to be cheaper.

However, before you go and enroll in continuing education, it’s important to understand a few key concepts and phrases, as well as exactly what your massage board will accept in terms of continuing education, if you need the credits to maintain your credential.

Once you find out your state or region’s regulating body will take certain online continuing education credits, you can dive in and start looking for the perfect class. To do so, you should understand the difference between synchronous and asynchronous online education, as this could help you make your selection.

An asynchronous online course is the kind students can “attend” at whatever time suits their schedules. In other words, you can log on and download the day’s lesson and homework at 4 a.m. or 4 p.m., between bodywork clients or right before picking your children up from soccer practice.

These asynchronous classes seem to suit those practitioners of healing touch who have hectic schedules but also are disciplined enough to keep up with a class on their own.

Now that you know the format of an asynchronous online class, it should be easy to figure out that a synchronous online course is one students “attend” on set days and at set times, just as they would a traditional class on a school campus.

Other concepts to grasp and questions to ask as you begin a foray into online education include what medium will be used to deliver the materials. Some teachers choose to videotape their lectures and lessons for students to download online. Others may decide to use live Web cams for their classes. You’ll want to make sure your computer is capable of receiving video footage if you choose to take these types of classes online.

Recorded audio lectures or simple printed material are other modes of communicating key class material via the Internet. Of course, there are many teachers who choose to use a mixture of all these methods to best deliver the lessons of continuing education.

You may be wondering how or whether you’ll be communicating with your teacher and fellow students often when taking an online class. The answer is yes, as e-mail, class forums and more make communicating with teachers and peers fast and easy.

—Brandi Schlossberg