Online learning: the new frontier for allied health?

Article by Melbourne University (written prior to COVID-19 Pandemic)

It provides flexibility and access to a global network of experts – is online study the smartest way to advance your allied health career?

Lifelong learning is a vital part of working in allied health. But, when you’re juggling your existing clinical workload, family and life commitments, it can be tricky to know how to add further study into the mix.

In recent years, online postgraduate study options have been emerging as viable, flexible alternatives to more traditional face-to-face courses.

Physiotherapist Dr Sonya Moore says this form of study can be advantageous to a wide range of health professionals. 

“As practising clinicians, you’re facing a number of competing demands on your time,” she says.

As course coordinator of the University of Melbourne’s postgraduate Sports Medicine program, Dr Moore helps shape the curriculum to reflect best practice in online education.  

The University offers postgraduate courses in sports medicine, rehabilitation science and sports rehabilitation – all delivered online.

“The idea is, you can go at your own pace,” Dr Moore says. “And, in the online space, you can actually do things that you can’t in a face-to-face classroom.”

More than black-and-white text

Dr Moore says today’s online learning platforms are “not just black-and-white text”. Rather, students have access to interactive materials, real clinical cases, and extensive interactions with fellow students in discussion boards.  

Material is presented in “digestible segments”, so students can learn in their own time, which Dr Moore describes as “a different, more personalised learning experience”.

Study while you work

Current student Edward Mohandoss is a physiotherapist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He enrolled in the Master of Rehabilitation Science to further his knowledge of current trends and key research concepts in rehabilitation.

Online study initially presented a learning curve, but Mohandoss soon embraced it.

“I was a bit apprehensive about the online mode as I was not confident with IT skills,” he says. But he was “able to cope with online learning with appropriate support from staff and fellow students”.

Mohandoss says the flexibility of the course has been vital: “It has offered me the flexibility to spend time with my young family and balance the stress of full-time work.”

Access a global network of peers and experts

As online programs can easily accept students from anywhere across the globe, they present unique learning opportunities.

“My favourite part of this course is the interaction between fellow students in the discussion boards and webinar sessions,” Mohandoss says. “Given our interaction with students from different countries, it has been interesting to compare similarities and differences in healthcare systems and their impact on patient outcomes.”

The University of Melbourne’s courses are delivered by internationally recognised experts, who present online lectures and sessions that may not be possible in a face-to-face context.

Dr Moore, who helps bring together the multidisciplinary team of experts in the Sports Medicine program, says this includes “clinicians working with elite sports teams and institutions around the world”.

Transfer learning into your practice  

In postgraduate programs, students are encouraged to learn from their real-world work.

“We are continually asking clinicians to draw upon their previous experiences,” Dr Moore says. “Then, they take their learning and skills from our program back into their practice environment.”

Crucially, Dr Moore says, lecturers and teachers understand that students have busy lives outside of study: “Learning fits around other practice and life opportunities, which are so important for well-rounded professionals to achieve a healthy work-life balance.”

The University of Melbourne’s Sports and Rehabilitation courses are delivered online, giving you the flexibility needed to advance your practice, when and where suits you.

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