ACA Blog

DeeAnna Merz Nagel
Jul 15, 2009

Online Counselor Education- What Works and What Doesn’t?

I am sitting at the Newark airport about to board a flight to Atlanta, traveling south to conduct a Distance Credentialed Counselor 2-day training.  I sit here wondering about how many of us who train will continue to travel to teach and learn as we move into this technology-laden future.

With more and more training and counselor education options available to us online, will the face-to-face higher education, workshop and conference experience become obsolete? I know many of us argue that there is great value in the in-person experience yet I see more and more of us opting for online options to fulfill our continuing education requirements or to pursue graduate and post-graduate studies.

I teach adjunct at a local community college and a year ago I was approached about teaching a couple of courses online.  I have been conducting online therapy for ten years so I thought this online teaching gig would be a no-brainer.  Even with my experience conducting online therapy and my comfort level with technology I was challenged to think outside the box and to make paradigm shifts regarding my teaching style. I took a 7 week course about the pedagogy of distance learning and found that there is so much more to the online teaching and learning experience than most people conceptualize.  And yet so many of us casually engage in online coursework for continuing education and other learning pursuits.  In fact, offering online courses has become another revenue stream for many people in the helping professions.

So, what comprises a solid online training experience?  What are the pros and cons of facilitated and un-facilitated training? Is a lecture online via webinar or course platform like Blackboard the same as a lecture in the classroom? Does the multimedia experience make up for not being in the room with the trainer? How do we create participant-centered learning environments in cyberspace? What do we think about reading a few screens of text, taking a multiple choice test and then receiving a few CE credits? I would love to hear feedback from people who have learned online and people who have taught online.

DeeAnna Merz Nagel is a clinical counselor, teacher, workshop presenter, sat on the ACA Cyber Technology Taskforce, and is co-founder of the Online Therapy Institute.

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