Online and blended CPR recertification have really become popular over the last seventeen years. Although the post I refer to below was written by a person in the nursing industry in 2004, I bet there are still quite a few people who feel unsure about online CPR recertification and its effectiveness.

I began to research a few health care forums to find out what people were asking about online CPR recertification and one discussion came to my attention and fits this subject perfectly.

A person in the forum asked, “I need to re-certify my CPR certification and thought I might try an online CPR recertification program. Does anyone know anything about this, and if so, which one should I use?”

Another person in the forum thread wrote, “I wouldn’t even consider it. I read about [online CPR] before I did my recert in March of this year. The instructor had never even HEARD of [online CPR recertification]. Personally, I fail to see how on earth anyone could get any good out of an online CPR course. I wouldn’t do it… I’d rather do the classroom thing, and besides, I highly doubt that many hospitals would accept an online CPR course. I wouldn’t if I were them. It doesn’t take that long. It only took me about four hours in the classroom. I’d rather do that than sit in front of a computer…”

This person surely brings up an interesting point regarding eLearning, and because of this serious misunderstanding, it moved me to write this article.

In all my years of training in the classroom, one particular problem always stood out to me. Cramming! Cramming, you say? Yeah, cramming. Cramming is when you only have a short amount of time to try to remember a large amount of information in order to pass a test. In college, these would be referred to as “all-nighters.” As in, “I didn’t study over a period of time so I could learn the material and pass the test, so I have to pull an all-night cram session in hopes that I won’t have test anxiety and pull a brain cramp and forget all the information I so feverishly tried to memorize.” Most professors would never admit that cramming is the best way to learn, memorize, and retain information. And yet, this is what we do every time we hold a 2-hour, 3-hour, 4-hour, or even a 1-day CPR training and certification program.

The American Heart Association suggests a CPR recertification course with remediation (and updates if applicable) every two years either in the classroom or blended online. The Red Cross is currently an annual CPR recertification. Either way, a person who is certified in either of these classroom certification types is put in a position in which, unless they use their CPR skills frequently or as a part of their everyday job, they will rarely even think about the CPR skills that they covered, studied, practiced, and were tested on. Therefore, they will soon forget most of the core information prior to their next CPR recertification.

You see, in this type of classroom, the student has to fit into a schedule designed by the administrator or the instructor at a time that may or may not be convenient for the student. The student may even be coming to an evening class after a long shift or maybe a weekend class when they normally could be home with their family.

Then, in a room full of other students/strangers, the student will sit through a DVD lecture and then be asked to practice their newly acquired skills on each other or on a plastic manikin; all this while hoping that your pants haven’t slid into a precarious location while giving rescue breaths or that others aren’t snickering when you lose your balance and fall on the floor. This type of drill and ceremony will continue for the next 2-4, or even 8, hours — well beyond the 20-minute average attention span of the adult learner in the 21st century. And remember, studies have shown that most people lose the majority of what they have learned when they are forced to learn in a “cram course” setting.

So, this dilemma triggers multiple questions.

  1. If one has the opportunity to CPR certify at his own pace in the location of his choice, (i.e. poolside, home, coffee shop, break-room, front desk, or office) why would he choose to go into a stuffy classroom?
  2. If one has the ability to pace oneself to his speed of learning and understanding, why would that person allow himself to be subject to the speed of the instructor or the slowest student in the classroom?
  3. If a student, after completing the CPR recertification, were to have the option of reviewing a short three-seven minute refresher video covering a different topic within the entire CPR class once per week so that he doesn’t forget the newly acquired information, why would he choose to forgo the email reminder videos?
  4. If a student never had to remember when his CPR card expires because an online CPR company like automatically reminds him (by phone, mail or email) to re-certify prior to his card expiring, why would the student rely on memory to babysit his certificate date prior to expiration?

In conclusion, I do not agree that classroom CPR recertification is the only legitimate and effective CPR recertification option. In fact, as I have shown in this article, it is evident that when technology is used to leverage best practices for helping people learn, refresh, and retain skills vital to effective CPR for people in sudden cardiac arrest, one may even argue that classroom education may be a less effective means for learning than online CPR recertification.

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