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How to Get the Most out of your Online Education

Continuing Education is a requirement for Sleep Technicians and Respiratory Therapists, as well as other medical staff, with an average of 20 to 30 hours every two years of continuing education credits to maintain their license and accreditation.  Many view these continuing education courses, whether online or in person as a necessary evil, but did you know not only do they fulfill your requirements but can also add value, joy and success to position? Furthermore, your continuing education can enhance the care and treatment you provide your patients.

Approaching CEU’s with an eagerness rather than as a chore may take an internal paradigm shift in your attitude.  Many of these courses are now offered online, so that might present an additional set of challenges, which can include maintaining focus and improving retention outside of the classroom setting.  This article will offer seven tips on how to get the most out of your required online education, especially in relation to the courses provided by the SleepEdu.org (via Sleep Education Partners).

  1. Choose the Right Course. Unfortunately, not all online education is used for learning, sad but true. Many times continuing professional education is simply utilized to meet licensure and credentialing requirements. Choose courses that (1) align with the goals and responsibilities of your current position, (2) present topics that are relevant to your patients’ needs, (3) offer engaging information that will improve or add to your current skillsets, and (4) is approved, certified by the appropriate associations (AARC, AAST, BRPT and CSRT) and are peer and/or physician reviewed.  As you look through our class list, think about what topics can be used and applied to your everyday practice.
  1. Choose the Right Time.  After you selected the course, registered and are ready to start the learning, make sure you schedule to take the course at a time when you’re usually at peak focus. For some that is early morning when the house is quiet, or late in the evenings when the kids are in bed.  Find a time you are most alert, well-rested and when there is the least opportunity for interruptions. Most of the SleepEdu.org’s courses are for 1.0 Credit Hours of Continuing Education, so they can usually be completed in one sitting but if you have attention or focus issues, you may spread that course over shorter sessions throughout the day or several days.
  1. Setup a Good Workspace.  Find a comfortable, quiet place with a good internet connection, access to power and freedom from distraction. If you have a designated space in your home or office where you routinely get work done, this would be an ideal place to complete your course. Choose a comfortable chair that encourages a good upright posture for learning, an organized desk or table for your laptop and materials, and in an area with natural light or sufficient lighting to keep you alert. Have a glass of cold water handy, as “drinking water improves focus and reaction time” (University of East London and the University of Westminster in the UK study).
  1. Take notes. It’s proven that students who take notes retain more information, are more engaged in the class and earn higher grades on tests.  Notetaking keeps you alert as it keeps your body and mind active on the material, engages your mind as you decide what to include in your notes, and organizes information as you identify the structure of the class material. You can take notes on an external source (a paper notepad or electronic notepad), you can highlight the material electronically, or you can print the material from our courses and highlight them manually.
  1. Ask Yourself Questions.  You have paid for the course, set aside time to complete the class, have spent energy and effort to retain the course material and take the test – so how can you go beyond the requirement of fulfilling credits and delve into the process of learning and improving my skills?  Be critical about what you’re learning and question it. Throughout your course, stop and ask yourself:
  • What is the main points of this material?
  • How can I use this material in my everyday routine?
  • How can I use this information to help specific clients?
  • How can I improve my level of care from what I have learned?
  1. Tell others What you’ve Learned.  Tell your friends, family, coworkers or anyone that will listen about your course material. Why?  In the May 2010 Journal of Experimental Psychology researchers document what they call the production effect.  Talking aloud to others (or even to yourself) is shown to improve retention and memory of the topics learned.  “The production effect works because it makes the information learned more distinctive. The words you speak aloud are now translated into speech and you have knowledge of producing the items as well as a memory of hearing or reading them. All of this information makes your memory for the spoken items more distinct from the rest of the items that were read silently.”
  1. Apply what you learned. When you return to work, immediately put into practice what you’ve learned, not only to improve your patients’ level of care, but to remember the material. Use the lessons learned through the course to improve an understanding of the care you are providing, whether it is clinical care or administrative practice. When you apply what you’ve learned and see it positive effects, you have achieved the greatest purpose of setting aside the time and energy for your continuing education.