After a decade and a half of the “information superhighway” there are very few claims made for the Internet that people won’t believe. Of course, simply surfing random waves of facts and figures will never lead to wisdom, but using today’s online resources for continuing education clearly leads to better trained, up-to-date professionals. For medical professionals, in fact, most states and federal certifications require CEUs (Continuing Education Units) to maintain good standing, and these are increasingly available online.
It didn’t take long for educators to see that the vast network of interconnected computers, databases, archives and individual users could offer more than dictionaries and encyclopedias, not to mention cartoons and the modern version of “French postcards.” Some people are content to be entertained and titillated by the Internet while, fortunately for society, many others are interested in continuing their education via online colleges – and the medical profession has, as expected, been one of the biggest adopters of this “high-tech” distance learning.
By the late 1990s, the World Wide Web – the “layer” of the larger network with a graphical user interface (GUI) and new, powerful tools for “data mining” – had matured to the point where it was stable, reliable and powerful enough to host “virtual classrooms.” There followed an explosion of Web-based colleges, seminars and training programs. For medical professionals, the ability to go online for continuing education (and earn college credits as well as state certifications) was a tremendous breakthrough.
Existing “brick and mortar” colleges were joined by new Internet-only educational enterprises as continuing education for such medical professionals as doctors, dentists, nurses and physical therapists went online in a big way. The various state and professional oversight agencies wasted no time certifying the curricula and awarding Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for study. People who were previously unable to attend on-campus classes because of busy work and family schedules could now do so.
Some courses might require lab time or a few on-campus sessions, but for many requirements a medical professional can earn CEUs, enhance existing expertise or even become certified in new specialties through online continuing education. The professionals climb the career ladder, get advanced degrees and certificates, and increase their salaries, while society as a whole benefits from better-trained doctors, nurses, therapists and paramedics. And that’s a classic “win-win” situation, without a doubt.
Costs, of course, vary. However, for working medical professionals, there are usually employer-funded plans for continuing education, and all it takes is a trip, call or online visit to Human Resources to find out. Online education is also being used at various colleges and universities for students in all majors to get class time in a variety of categories, and there are full-scale online college programs with accreditation (and degrees that are actually respected in the real world). The use of the Internet for education is a trend that will continue to grow and mature.