EMBRACE ONLINE LEARNING TECHNOLOGY or go the traditional face-to-face route? When it comes to Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification, health care providers and students in need of certification have the choice. As the number of online learning options are increasing around the world, examining the quality and researching the benefits is advised, as everyone learns differently. Choosing a classroom or online PALS certification and actually committing to a course can be a daunting and confusing process without having first-hand experience doing both.
Lauren Diffendarfer, a student at Indiana University and member of the Empowerment Team over at our partners, www.disquefoundation.org, felt intrigued to take a classroom PALS course after completing an online PALS certification course to get an idea of the differences first-hand. As an aspiring medical student, she will most likely be required to take PALS recertification every two years throughout her career. Thus, deciding if she wants to do online or classroom PALS certification is highly beneficial in how she spends her time
Q&A with Lauren on her PALS Experience
Why did you need PALS?
PALS is made for health care providers who work with children who may be in critical conditions. As a future medical professional, I know this information is crucial. I wanted to take classroom PALS to get a first-hand experience on the pros and cons of online vs. classroom, and to help others get a better idea of which option is best for them.
How long did the entire process take?
Classroom PALS took me a long time to learn because it is directed towards health care providers, and I am not one yet. Because I needed to learn this information on my own, I’d say it took an additional 10 hours or so. I didn’t have the knowledge they assume someone taking the course would know. They did not offer any basic materials. If you wanted, you had to purchase more material, which was quite expensive. As far as getting the actual class schedule, finding classes that fit my schedule as a working student was very difficult, especially finding classes in my local town. Class dates overlapped with each other and some classes were not posted on the ILCOR website.
What was the set up?
There was an online portion and an in-person skills session. I took the online portion first, which was a mix of videos and an interactive simulation.
How much was the course?
The online portion was $120 and the skills session was another $120, so a total of $240. I know that prices vary, but online PALS through NHCPS is $175.
There are not set prices for in-class certifications or skills sessions. The online portions are priced by the ILCOR, but individual instructors set the cost for the courses they teach themselves, which is inconsistent.
The online portion started with a series of videos that went over course information. Then, there was a pre-assessment test that went over heart rhythms, pharmacology, and algorithm information needed for the course. Then you went through the interactive simulations where you acted as the team leader and directed the actions of the health care providers. Once the simulations were completed, you took the course.
Did you have to drive?
I had to drive two hours. There were PALS courses in my area, but conflicted with my schedule. Thus, I had to email instructors to try and find a class that would work. The only class was two hours away.
Were their extra expenses you didn’t expect?
Travel costs. Some classes I found required you to purchase additional materials as well. For the PALS course I took, a handbook was included. Although I know that courses that are 100% in-person require you to purchase a PALS handbook.
What was the instructor like?
The instructor was luckily very accommodating. Because I could not find a PALS class that worked with my busy schedule, I had to reach out to several training centers. Many instructors didn’t respond, but this instructor did and allowed me to set up a time and date for a class that had not been previously scheduled. I rescheduled twice, and he was very understanding. He also knew I was not a health care provider just yet, so he taught the course at a slower pace until I understand. I doubt many instructors would do this type of one-on-one instruction!
Do you have to recertify?
Yes. All health care providers in need of PALS require recertification every two years.
Did you receive CME credits?
For the online PALS course, I received CME credits. For the classroom PALS course, however, the option to receive CME credits was only available to healthcare providers. Because I am only a student, I could not obtain any.
What were some of your pros and cons of classroom PALS vs. online PALS?
Classroom PALS was very time consuming, and if you don’t know the information, you don’t have the opportunity to take a break to learn the basics or re-learn material you may have forgotten. The cost of classroom was much more expensive than online, and you don’t have to travel to take online courses. I think the opportunity to ask questions in-person is the only real pro of the classroom.
Pros and Cons
In Lauren’s experience, she preferred online PALS to the classroom option, but that may not be the case for everyone. Here are some of the pros of online learning that individuals can benefit from.
Pros of Online PALS Courses
- Convenience and flexibility: Students can take the course on their own schedules at their own pace. This makes balancing work, school, home and social obligations easy.
- Motivation: Many students feel online learning is more engaging than classroom certification as they are choosing to sit down to learn when they are most productive.
- Access: Online PALS courses are accessible anywhere, all over the world, on a variety of platforms where Internet access is available.
- Reviewing material: Students can choose to stop, go back and review outside material during the course for review.
- Cost: Online PALS is typically cheaper than classroom PALS. Traditional PALS courses require travel expenses, additional expensive materials, etc.
Cons of Online PALS Courses
- Student support: Some students may struggle with the fact that they cannot ask other students questions in-person.
- Technical problems: The Internet and computers aren’t perfect, and some students may run into technical issues. Be sure to choose an online provider that offers good customer support to avoid this issue.
- Access: Some students may not have access to a personal computer or tablet, or may not have Internet access.
Choosing the correct online PALS course provider can take some research. Be sure to choose a provider that adheres to the latest International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation PALS standards and guidelines, is physician-created and taught, has good customer support, and is reputable based on customer reviews and testimonials. The choice is yours! To learn more about our offered online PALS certification course, please click here.
Liked this read and want to learn more about Lauren? We interviewed her about her volunteer abroad experience. Read more: Don’t Volunteer Abroad Without Knowing These 9 Tips First.