Whether you’re taking continuing education (CE) courses to stay current with your licensing and certification requirements or to enhance your professional skills, there are a wide range of options available. To fulfill CE requirements, massage therapists can choose from live classes, books, DVDs and online courses. Fundamentally, however, CE courses come in two types: in-person and distance education.

Home study vs. live classes

In-person education involves attending live classes at a massage school, workshop or seminar. Distance education includes home study courses you take on your own using books, DVDs or the Internet. Both types of courses come with their own advantages and disadvantages, and students must carefully weigh their options before enrolling in either one.

For example, in a live class, students get to practice hands-on technique under the watchful eyes of instructors, who can offer specific advice on their performance, while adjusting such things as stance, pressure and speed. However, attending live classes can be problematic in terms of scheduling, cost and transportation. Similarly, while home study courses allow one to take a class when it’s most convenient, these courses lack the personal attention and hands-on guidance of live classes.

A new trend

However, a new trend in massage education has been to combine the two types—live classes and distance education—so students get the best of both worlds. In fact, in the past few years, several leading massage schools have been enhancing classroom learning with distance education with very successful results.

“A combination of distance and in-person education is a growing trend among high-caliber schools and workshops that are harnessing the benefits of distance education to augment classroom learning,” wrote MASSAGE Magazine Editor-in-Chief Karen Menehan in her article “CEU Roundtable,” which appeared in the magazine’s November 2007 issue.

And this doesn’t mean simply taking nonkinesthetic classes—ethics, anatomy, business—as home study and keeping clinical-techniques courses totally classroom-based. Even courses involving more complex techniques can be enhanced by using home study to introduce the material, which is followed with live classes, where students have the chance to get hands-on practice and feedback from a teacher.

Better benefits

Combining both types of courses can offer learning benefits which are unavailable to those taking home study or in-person classes independently of one another. “The experts agree the most powerful form of education is when various forms of distance education are paired with in-person learning,” noted Menehan.

Next time, we’ll discuss some of the specific benefits that can be derived by combining home study and in-person courses, and we’ll also talk about how you can create your own home study and live class combo, even if you aren’t attending a massage school offering such a program.

Chris Towery is the former associate editor of MASSAGE Magazine and is currently a full-time freelance journalist. He has written hundreds of articles for more than 20 different magazines, newspapers and custom publishers. Much of his recent writing has been for the complementary and alternative health-care industry. To contact Towery, e-mail cmreuben@yahoo.com.