What's better: online CPD or in-person learning?

Last Updated: 25 May 2022

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Health practitioners understand better than most that high-quality CPD is incredibly important to their quality of practice. However, the way in which the CPD is completed is also very important.

Just completing your CPD doesn’t make it effective: so many factors play into the efficacy of learning, such as the environment in which you learn, any stressors surrounding the learning, and the learning itself. A big factor that plays into this is repetition. The more often you revisit a topic or skill, the more likely you are to retain that information.

As such, a good mixture of online and in-person CPD is the best way to get the absolute most out of your learning experiences: doing either online learning or event-based in-person learning is a way of the past. To get the most out of your professional education, you need to bring variation to your learning.

What constitutes online learning?

Online learning is any form of education that can be completed or engaged with via the internet. This could be a lecture, an article, a meeting or even something like a book club or reading group.

Online educational resources that are specifically developed for healthcare practitioners are a great way to acquire new – or consolidate – knowledge. This is because these resources can be delivered in a variety of formats, such as:

  • Articles

  • Lectures

  • Courses

  • Podcasts

Another thing to keep in mind is that online learning does not necessarily mean you’re learning alone! If the pandemic has taught us anything about education, it’s that information and learning can be effectively conveyed over a live – or recorded – video call.

If you think this would work for you, look at webinars that your registration Board or a Professional Body are hosting in the near future. Attend one and see if this mode of learning and discussion works for you!

Does this mean in-person learning is useless?

Absolutely not! Up until COVID-19 hit Australian shores, Ausmed was running over 250 events in Australia each year because we understand the importance of meeting with peers and hearing other professionals explain their areas of expertise.

In other words, in-person learning is an important element of CPD – but it’s not everything. Both in-person and online CPD provides healthcare practitioners with new information and opportunities to deepen their knowledge. However, where face-to-face learning gives you the opportunity to make connections, online learning gives you the flexibility to learn a huge range of skills and information anywhere.

Should you do in-person CPD or online CPD?

You should do in-person CPD AND online CPD!

When you plan your CPD around both types of learning, you are giving yourself the best opportunity to learn new information while also maintaining a strong connection to those around you by convening at a conference or event.

For example, you could organise to attend a conference at the start of your registration year. If this conference is about a topic related to your practice – such as dementia – you could use an online overview of dementia to make sure you’re prepared to critically engage with the conference itself. Following the conference, you could watch an online lecture about how delirium and depression affect health outcomes for patients with dementia: perhaps this has presented previously in your area of practice. Now you can provide support to those patients, and even provide mentorship to colleagues who also want to provide that support and close that gap in their knowledge.

When you plan like this, you’re providing yourself with a fool-proof way to gain and retain new information over a long period of time: you’re revisiting common themes of information, and you’re relating it to your personal practice.

But what if online CPD just isn’t your thing?

This is fair: maybe you prefer to curl up with a good book about your area of practice rather than sit in front of a screen. Maybe you’ve been doing that for decades and it’s worked perfectly for you. That’s great! Don’t stop reading.

However, think about the opportunities for discussion and growth that the internet gives you: you’ve finished reading the book on something like the importance of patient advocacy in midwifery and you have opinions about a few of the author’s ideas. Why not go onto a nursing and midwifery forum and discuss these issues with some colleagues?

Or maybe the book references a particular pregnancy outcome that you’re not sure you’ve ever worked with. Why not jump onto Ausmed, look it up, and learn about what it is so you can place the author’s theory or discussion point into context?

By no means should online learning replace what you’ve done in the past. It should, however, complement it and make your CPD – whether that’s reading a book, joining a mentorship group, or attending an event – more effective.

What now?

Now it’s time to start organising your learning around a healthy mixture of in-person and online CPD!

Use this article and information to guide the creation of the first part of your CPD cycle: planning. To learn more about the CPD cycle, read this: 'What is the CPD cycle?'

While you’re planning, have a browse through Ausmed’s library of resources to see what learning we can help you with: Ausmed Library.

To start finding and organising your tickets for in-person events, use some of the large Australian healthcare colleges' events pages, such as the Australian College of Nursing, the Australian College of Midwives or the Australian College of Paramedicine.

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