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PTA Blog Talk

Online PTA Education

Published November 25, 2008 6:45 PM by Jason Marketti
Recently I came across an online PTA program.  To tell the truth I was skeptical about it.  After more research I concluded that it was ingenious to offer education online for PTAs. 

Now some may say, "You can't teach therapy online."

San Juan College (www.sanjuancollege.edu/pta) in Farmington, NM has done just this.  They have a successful online PTA program and graduated one class with a 100 percent pass rate, and are graduating another class this December.

If someone can get a respiratory therapy degree online and a DPT online, why shouldn't they be able to educate themselves as a PTA with the same method?

"With our program, students enrolled in the online portion can live anywhere in the United States," said Wendy D. Bircher, PT, EdD, director of the PTA program.

She went on to say, "The students attend sessions toward the end of each semester for seven to 14 days to learn the lab skills and to ensure they successfully complete a lab exam and are competent to continue on to the next semester. The students attend the lab sessions everyday (including Saturday and Sunday) for approximately eight to 12 hours a day. It is a grueling schedule, but with this format, individuals who have no other option for a PTA degree now have one."   

To elaborate on the success of online education in the therapy field, do a search for online CEUs. If I take an online CEU, I am essentially learning therapy techniques online. San Juan College requires a proctor and has a time limit for each test. Do your online CEUs require that?


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James February 20, 2010 7:01 AM

How can I get more information on the online PTA program?

Jose Morlett, Inspector - City inspector, Greatnorthwest HOA January 9, 2010 5:17 PM
San Antonio TX

Occupational therapy is in high demand. I recently graduated and throughout my college career professors discussed how a job was guaranteed upon graduation with an occupational therapy degree. It is a rewarding career that offers excellent options in the health care field and provides high salaries as well. Check out <a href="http://www.degreesinhealthcare.org">Degrees In Healthcare</a> to learn more about earning a degree in occupational therapy.

ed c June 12, 2009 4:54 PM

Online education is great.  For those that work full time, have children, etc. how can they sit in a classroom 5 days a week every day?  There are law schools on line as well, MD's can take CEU's online, it is becoming the norm in education.  

Christie is correct, there needs to be a PTA transition to PT prefferably online.  PTA's should not have to go back and relearn all the skills they already possess.  And Jason you discussed a better transitioning with years of experience being one way to transition.  

Perhaps the APTA will remove the scales from their eyes and recognize that they could have more PT's around if there was a better transition program for the PTA's.  


Karen November 29, 2008 10:19 AM


Being a verteran of online education, I can help you elaborate on this topic further.  Online education is certainly a way of meeting the educational and lifestyle demands of today's students.  Both PT and PTA students come in all shapes and sizes and often are "non-traditional" students with families, jobs, bills, etc.  The tradiational format of PT and PTA programs is often not adequate to support a non-traditional student unless significant social support is involved.  

First, as far as "DPT online" programs, know that probably what you are most likely referring to is a transitional DPT program.  These are programs that are designed for the already working physical therapist.  They have already been able to demonstrate the psychomotor domain of the profession with a certain level of competency.  Most transitional DPT programs involve further courses that allow one to be a better diagnostician such as pharmacology, radiology, differential diagnosis, etc. These can often be taught in an online format with timed examinations which may or may not be proctored. "Open book" tests are common, but we all know how one still pretty much has to know the major points of the lesson inorder to do well in an open book test.  Myself, I did often also have to have my exams proctored by either going to a library or a testing center...it all depended on the goals of the course.  At the transitional DPT level, papers are also very common as this demonstrates one's ability to critically analyze current relevant literature and current practice patterns.  I would say I've had to complete more papers and projects in all my post-graduate online education than examinations.  

Just like San Juan college, there is one Modified online PT program in the US which is offered by the University of St. Augustine. They have yet to graduate their first class (I think), but the didactic involves both online assynchronous formats as well and intensive lab courses every other weekend at either the Florida or California campus.  The program is also spread out over four years as opposed to three to accomodate this didatic.

Finally, there are many post graduate online CEUs available, however, most states have legislation that limits the amount of CEUs that can be obtained towards continuing education requirements.  

Online education in physical therapy is certainly challenging to meet both the cognitive and psychosocial domains of learning. Almost invariably, some "live" instruction is required.  My own personal latest endevor includes the Dip. level certification in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy.  The didatic requires a 3 credit hour course from the University of Otago, NZ which includes a mix of case analysis/presentation, online discussion, literary critique and analysis and group presentation.  It's been a challening semester, and the Kiwi's are tough graders.  This didatic is culminated by a 360 hour rotation in an approved training facility followed by an examination at a national conference which involves a 3 hour written exam, an hour oral exam and an hour practical exam. Having the online portion of the didatic available makes this program much more reasonable for people across the world, but it takes a lot of coordination and adaptation to learning.  

...Now all we need are more modified online PTA to PT transition programs!

Christie, Physical Therapist November 26, 2008 5:53 PM
Streamwood IL

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About this Blog

    Jason J. Marketti
    Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistant
    Setting: San Jacinto, CA
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