When you take a Massive Online Open Course, or MOOC, you get access to university content taught by professors, are able to take the course on your laptop at home or your local coffee shop, can oftentimes complete the course at your own pace – and you don’t have to pay for it, because it’s free.

The MOOC model is one of the movements changing the way education is presented and consumed, according to Whitney Lowe, who just gave a keynote address at the  Alliance for Massage Therapy Education‘s annual conference in St. Charles, Missouri. According to Whitney, massage educators need to wake up from what he calls their “Rip Van Winkle nap” and create a model of education that better serves the needs of today’s students. Whitney is an educator, writer and clinician, and  offers orthopedic massage continuing education through his institute, OMERI.

Whitney envisions a world where massage education consists of hybrid classes (some in person, some online); social networking; “flipped” classrooms, where students learn information at their own pace outside of class, while time in class is spent applying that knowledge to real-life situations; and digital badges – credentials awarded class-by-class that, when clicked on, tell the viewer all about the work that went into completing a class.

Gone are the days when a massage instructor can get away with making an unsubstantiated claim, said Whitney.

Also gone, he said, are the days when touch therapists can claim to be part of an unquestionable lineage, practicing a technique handed down through the ages by  “some figurehead who is the ‘great creator’ or inventor” of a technique that allows all kinds of factual inaccuracies to filter down from one generation to the next.

“If I say something in class, I better be damn sure I can back that up, because somebody’s going to Google it while I’m talking to see if it’s true or not,” he added.

Many of the students of today – and all the students of tomorrow, said Whitney, will have grown up with what some of us (read: over age 35) consider “new technology.” But for those students, that technology isn’t new. Just as those of us who Whitney graciously called “more chronologically experienced” don’t think of the telephone as new technology, neither, for most students, are MOOCs.