High school students learn CPR online.

High school students learning CPR online.

We’ve been receiving some pretty emotionally-charged messages lately from rival CPR instructors in our neck of the Internet, so I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up some of the misconceptions people have about online CPR training, particularly the training we offer here at ProCPR. There are some CPR instructors out there who will tell you that all online CPR training is a scam, pure and simple. “Online CPR companies are nothing but certification mills,” they will say. And since these people are instructors, you might be tempted to believe them. “People can’t learn online,” they will tell you. Sorry Stanford, MIT, Lynda.com, Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy. According to these instructors, online education is ineffective and you should all close up shop.

Okay, they might not all go quite that far, but those instructors will tell you, “CPR is a hands-on skill. You can’t learn a hands-on skill from a computer.” This sounds like a reasonable argument, you might think. After all, I didn’t learn how to become a star basketball player just by watching the game on TV. It took years of practice to get where I am today! (Disclaimer: I’m not actually a star basketball player. In fact, I’m really not very good at basketball at all. Just look where all that practice got me.)

CPR and Basketball

Now, basketball might not be the best comparison to CPR. Most people would probably argue that the “rules” of CPR are a little less complicated than the rules of basketball. But think about it. How did you learn all the rules to the game of basketball? Probably from watching first. This is how we learn most things in life — from watching someone else do it or explain it to us. I’m not saying you will become an expert basketball player just from watching, or even that you will be able to perform perfect chest compressions and rescue breaths just from watching. But what you will gain is the knowledge of the steps involved in rescuing someone and how to perform proper CPR. This is the first step to learning CPR and it doesn’t matter whether you learn it online or in a classroom with 10-15 other people. I could argue the benefits of self-paced learning, blah, blah, blah, but that’s not what this article is about, so I’ll leave it at that. (Note: That “blah, blah, blah” part is worth reading when you get a chance, IMHO). Now, it may be true that you can improve your skills with practice, but the bulk of the learning does not happen on a manikin. And many would argue that CPR is not an overly complex skill to perform properly anyways.

OSHA Requires Hands-On

“That’s all fine,” these instructors might contend. “But OSHA mandates hands-on practice for CPR. Online courses can’t provide that.” And then, to make sure they really appeal to your emotions, the instructor will add, “Think about it. Would you want someone to perform CPR on you if they learned it online?”

This is where things get more technical. Let’s start with the part about OSHA. There are certain occupations that are overseen by OSHA (a government agency that regulates health and safety in the U.S.). Regular CPR certification is mandatory to maintain OSHA compliance for these industries. You probably already know if your job requires CPR certification as mandated by OSHA. If you don’t know, then ask your boss. If you are mandated by OSHA, then you aren’t allowed to do CPR only online and call it good. You need to have some form of hands-on practice with a manikin. Does this mean you need to take your CPR training in a classroom? No, although some instructors would have you believe otherwise. ProCPR offers a very popular blended course, which means you take the full training online, then you schedule a short skill evaluation with a ProCPR instructor who will check off your skills. It’s still less expensive than most classes, saves you time over a full class, and is a great way to learn at your own pace. And guess what? It meets OSHA requirements. Don’t let any instructor tell you otherwise.

CPR for Everyone Else

What about all those people who aren’t governed by OSHA? People take CPR training for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common reasons include: (A) their state board requires it for licensure; (B) their employer requires it; or (C) they want to learn CPR because it’s a good skill to know. If you are required to be CPR certified to renew your license, then odds are you need to take a blended course as described above. However, requirements for people in groups B and C are not as black and white. If you need CPR because your employer mandates it, then it is completely up to your employer whether you can take CPR online, blended, or classroom only. These requirements vary widely and you need to talk to your employer to know. People in group C can learn CPR however they learn best (yes, even 100% online training).

So, that covers the technical compliance aspects of CPR certification. It’s pretty simple and is what we have always told our students: blended CPR for people who need CPR for OSHA and licensure, otherwise ask your employer. If no one requires you to do it, then it’s up to you how to learn.

Other Instructor Arguments

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the argument from our instructor friends. As you will quickly learn if you talk to certain instructors, they truly believe that CPR cannot and should not be learned online by anyone and that this way of learning is dangerous (even if it is allowed for your situation). The fact that we offer an online option is the impetus for all the inflammatory comments from instructors. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this viewpoint, but it may come from the fear that online training is a threat to their business. Some instructors are afraid to see the classroom CPR course they have perfected be reduced to a quick skill evaluation session with someone who already knows what to do. One of the things we do here at ProCPR that really bothers some instructors is to provide free CPR training to anyone who wants to learn. These instructors will commonly argue that CPR is a very complex skill that could kill someone if done incorrectly, and you couldn’t possibly do it right unless you have practiced on a manikin.

The line of thinking that “CPR is a complex skill and you’re likely to do it wrong” is actually much more dangerous than the risk of someone doing CPR incorrectly. If you talk to an ambulance dispatcher, they won’t complain about people killing someone by doing CPR wrong. They will complain that CPR was started too late (or never done at all) because people were too afraid to try. This problem is only amplified by these instructors who oppose and undermine online training. Remember, if you are doing CPR on someone, that means the person is already dead. You can’t make it worse. And, in the end, you’re really just buying time until the ambulance arrives with the defibrillator. Following the recommended sequences may provide the best chance of revival, but it doesn’t justify these instructors’ all-or-nothing, fear-based view of CPR training.


So, is online training really as bad as some instructors claim? To be honest, some online training is quite bad. However, we believe ours is exceptionally good (and have thousands of students and companies who will back us up on that claim). ProCPR sets itself apart from other online programs in a few ways that we believe are very important. First, our blended card is differentiated from our online-only card by a second signature line with the skill evaluator’s name on it. This makes it very clear for an administrator to know whether an employee took the online or blended course. This blended course has been reviewed and approved by hundreds of organizations around the country. Our online training is a full video training course with a licensed paramedic as the instructor. And the certification test is randomized and adaptive to cut down on cheating and make sure the student has retained all the necessary information.

Blended training is a great way to learn and may be the best option for some people. However, we firmly believe that by providing an online certification option, we are able to train more people to react in an emergency and save lives than would otherwise be possible. And that’s what this training is all about.


To learn more about ProCPR training programs and to sign up to watch the free training videos, visit our courses page and pick the course that’s right for you. We are also on a mission to train high school students for free in CPR. Visit our School CPR blog to support this great initiative and share it with a school near you.


  1. Jeff Meyers

    I do have to tell you that when I do a hands on skill evaluation for your students (I am a skill evaluator & instructor for 3 recognized certification organizations like yours) I can see they know what they are doing. With other organizations…even the big ones we can’t name…I always have to re-educate and end up teaching a class for these people instead of doing a skill eval. I am always surprised how much your students retain when they do a blended program with you. This is something I’ve seen from each skill eval for your blended program I’ve done for ProCPR students….and I’ve been doing this for more than a couple of years. Oh, and if anyone is reading this thinking I am employed by ProCPR, I’m not. I’m just an instructor who has their own business, and teaches for all the main organizations.

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