If you’ve got a professional license, then continuing competency requirements in the form of continuing education units (CEUs) or contact hours are a fact of life—if you’d like to keep that license of yours, that is. Because so many professionals are required to complete CEUs—healthcare providers, psychologists, and lawyers, to name a few—the debate as to whether to take those courses online or in-person is alive and well. While there’s no across-the-board right answer as to which class type is better, there may be a right answer for you. So, read on to learn the pros and cons of online CEU courses for physical therapists (adapted from this resource and this one):

The PT Patient’s Guide to Understanding Insurance - Regular BannerThe PT Patient’s Guide to Understanding Insurance - Small Banner

Online CEU Pros

1. They’re convenient and cost-effective.

Not only are online courses more accessible—I mean, you can complete them from your office or your couch, on your own time—but they also tend to be less expensive (especially when you factor in the cost of travel). That’s an important pro for busy professionals who would rather not invest a hefty amount of capital (or time) into their continuing education. Just be sure to stay away from truly cheap physical therapy CEUs. After all, you get what you pay for.

2. Quality online courses are available in a wide variety of subjects.

Because online course-takers aren’t limited to classes available only in certain geographical regions, they can access quality courses on a number of interesting subjects—all taught by expert teachers based in a variety of locations around the country. That means you can study just about anything you’re interested in—and enhance your clinical or business skills in ways that truly align with your professional goals.

3. You’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate your learning in the form of an assessment.

Many in-person CEU course credits are based on attendance, which means you won’t necessarily come away with a concrete assessment of your learning. If you want to test your understanding of a particular topic, then you may benefit from completing an online CEU course and its assessment. That way, you can feel confident that you’ve actually retained the information that matters most.

4. You may have access to more in-depth materials to ensure a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Most online courses come complete with additional study materials to help you not only prepare for the class, but also further expand your learning after the course is over. Access to readings, videos, online webinars, and other resources can help you gain a deeper understanding of any given subject matter.

5. You can track your learning and course completion against state and industry requirements.

Depending on the CEU platform you use to complete your online CEUs, you may be able to easily track your progress toward state and industry continuing education standards. That way, you always know how many more courses—in which categories—you must complete in order to retain your license.

Online CEU Cons

1. Online courses aren’t well suited to hands-on learning.

According to this resource, “the basic rule of thumb” for deciding whether to take a course online or in person comes down to how “hands-on” a topic is. Generally speaking, the more hands-on the subject matter, the more important it is to learn about that topic in an in-person setting where you can:

  1. perform and practice the associated processes and techniques, and
  2. receive real-time guidance and feedback from your instructor.

2. It may be harder to stay focused outside of a classroom.

According to the author of this article, “Fans of in-person education will tell you that the complex, layered world of questions, spur-of-the-moment thinking, shared problem-solving and enthusiasm for learning can never be replaced by the flatter world of online learning.” And that may be true. The focused learning environment of a classroom setting may keep “learners engaged and on-task and lead to spontaneous learning during breaks.”

3. You may miss out on opportunities to connect with other professionals.

We know that cross-pollination of ideas among individuals with different backgrounds and experiences can lead to great innovation—something both the rehab therapy profession and the general healthcare industry are ripe for. Unfortunately, sitting in front of a computer doesn’t offer course attendees the degree of networking opportunity that in-person classes provide. In a classroom, you never know who you’ll sit next to or strike up a conversation with during a break.

The Bottom Line

According to this resource, “regardless of the learning format, it is the course content that deepens practitioners' learning, helps them stay abreast of the latest developments in [their field], and, ultimately better treat their patients.” Furthermore, “when practitioners advance their own learning based on well-planned goals, they build thriving practices and this moves the entire profession forward.” And who doesn’t want that? So, before you select a particular course, take some time to get clear on your goals. That way, you can be sure the course will benefit your professional development.

If you’re having trouble deciding which courses to take, this resource suggests putting each one to the purpose-population-passion test. In other words, ask yourself the following three questions—and only select classes that warrant a resounding “yes” to all three:

  • “Purpose: Is there a good reason you are choosing this specific course? Will you have good use for the materials you learn?
  • “Population: Will the skills you learn benefit the population you want to work with, or are currently working with?
  • “Passion: Do you actually enjoy this topic?”

Finally, before you line up your annual—or biannual—CEU curriculum, be sure to check in with your state’s licensing board to ensure you know the rules for license renewal. Many states have specific requirements regarding how many credit hours you can obtain in certain course categories. And, for a CEU easy button, check out WebPT CEU. With WebPT CEU, you can easily find approved courses by state and profession, which means you’ll keep current with changing industry demands while also staying up to date with continuing competency requirements. Plus, you can track your progress on an easy-to-read transcript, so you’re always prepared to demonstrate course completion in the event of an audit. Other WebPT CEU benefits include:

  • Automatic grading and certificate generation
  • Progress tracking
  • Up-to-date license requirements by state and speciality
  • Forever access to completed coursework
  • Assessment PRO Specialty Tests access

What experiences have you had with online—or in-person—CEU courses? Are there any pros or cons you’d add to the lists above? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

  • Common Questions from our Cloudy with a Chance of Reform Webinar Image

    articleFeb 13, 2017 | 13 min. read

    Common Questions from our Cloudy with a Chance of Reform Webinar

    In our first webinar of 2017 , WebPT’s co-founder and president, Heidi Jannenga, teamed up with CEO Nancy Ham to discuss the current and future healthcare trends that will impact PTs, OTs, and SLPs. (Missed it? No worries; you can view the complete recording here .) As always, we received quite a few questions during the presentation—way more than we could address live. So, we’ve put them all here, in one handy Q&A doc. Scroll through and …

  • Cloudy with a Chance of Reform: 5 Key Healthcare Forecasts for 2017 Image

    webinarJan 5, 2017

    Cloudy with a Chance of Reform: 5 Key Healthcare Forecasts for 2017

    Predicting the weather is tough—just ask any meteorologist who has called for sun on the day of a major downpour. Well, predicting the fate of the US healthcare system isn’t much easier—there’s a lot up in the air, after all. But, even without a healthcare equivalent of Doppler Radar, there are a few key trends that are sure to have a major impact on PTs, OTs, and SLPs in 2017 and beyond. And to keep your practice …

  • 3 Reasons Why Rehab Therapy Employers Should Pay for Staff CEUs Image

    articleDec 14, 2017 | 7 min. read

    3 Reasons Why Rehab Therapy Employers Should Pay for Staff CEUs

    Whether you’re managing recent rehab therapist grads or seasoned professionals, their education is never done—nor should it be. After all, new developments in everything from evidence-based care and operational best practices to patient relationship building and referral generation are constantly coming to light. So, the very best way to ensure that your therapists are practicing at the top of their game is by providing them with access to the very best continuing education resources around. Sure, you …

  • Suppressing Sticker Shock: How to Handle Your Patients’ High-Deductible Health Plans Image

    webinarFeb 23, 2017

    Suppressing Sticker Shock: How to Handle Your Patients’ High-Deductible Health Plans

    Copayments, coinsurances, unresolved balances—oh my! Any one of these can cause headaches for healthcare providers, but as healthcare reform efforts shift more and more financial burden to insurance beneficiaries, today’s practitioners are increasingly facing all three. And these challenges are not only hurting their patient acquisition and retention rates, but also their bottom lines. Tired of spending time verifying benefits only to lose those patients to copay sticker shock? Stuck in a constant cycle of pursuing past-due …

  • Down with Denials! 5 Claim Fixes to Make Sure Your PT Clinic Gets Paid Image

    webinarApr 19, 2017

    Down with Denials! 5 Claim Fixes to Make Sure Your PT Clinic Gets Paid

    One denied claim might not sound off your billing alarm bells—but in reality, it should. That’s because—as with faulty plumbing—one leak often indicates a much larger issue. And all too often, rehab therapy practices fail to act quickly enough—and soon find themselves wading in a flood of lost revenue. But there are simple, proven, and affordable ways to not only plug your billing holes, but also reinforce your whole system so you’re less likely to bust a …

  • 5 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2015 Image

    articleApr 28, 2015 | 4 min. read

    5 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2015

    Have you heard? Ascend— the ultimate business summit for rehab therapists —is back. Last year, the inaugural event took Dallas—or at least, Dallas physical therapists and private practice owners—by storm for one jam-packed day . This year, Ascend is upping the ante—big time. For starters, our 2015 event will run for two days instead of one—and trust us, you don’t want to miss it. Here are five reasons you should attend Ascend 2015: 1. You’ll earn CEUs. …

  • The PT Patient's Guide to Understanding Insurance Image

    downloadApr 3, 2017

    The PT Patient's Guide to Understanding Insurance

    Patients are shouldering a greater portion of their healthcare costs than ever before. But when they don’t know the specifics of their coverage, they can end up with much bigger bills than they bargained for—and that often leads to unpaid balances and unfinished treatment plans. Bring them up to speed—and improve your practice’s collections and patient retention—with this guide. Patients will learn: What it means for a service to be “covered.” How to define common insurance terms. …

  • What to Expect at Ascend 2018 Image

    articleApr 3, 2018 | 3 min. read

    What to Expect at Ascend 2018

    This year, WebPT is celebrating our tenth year in business—and what better way to cap off a decade of innovation than to host the rehab industry’s premier business innovation summit in our own backyard? And who better to join us than rehab therapy’s top leaders, healers, and trailblazers? Clearly, we’re super excited for Ascend 2018 —coming to Phoenix, Arizona on September 28-29—and we hope you are, too. Last year’s event in Washington, DC was a massive hit. …

  • 8 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2017 Image

    articleJun 15, 2017 | 5 min. read

    8 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2017

      Great news! Ascend— the ultimate business summit for rehab therapists —is back. Last year, the third-annual event hit Fort Worth, Texas, for two incredibly educational (and incredibly fun) days. This year—September 29 and 30, to be exact—Ascend is heading to our nation’s capital. As we all know, DC is full of movers, shakers, and changemakers, and Ascend will keep that tradition alive—minus the political drama. This two-day conference is a can’t-miss affair. Here’s why: 1.) You’ll …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.