The distance education portion of U of T may not be for everyone, but it’s been very efficient for me.
Residential Blocks & “Hands On” Learning
Throughout the year we have multiple “residential blocks” where we are in Toronto every day learning the hands-on application of what we learn at home. These range from 3-5 weeks long, and they’re very busy and structured. I was usually exhausted by the end of a res block.
When I got back home for the distance education portion, I was always relieved.
The online classes are a mixture of both synchronous (everyone logs in at once for a lecture) and independent (watching pre-recorded lectures on our own time). The up-side is that you get to work around your own schedule.
Late night study session for Diagnostic Tests & Procedures. Resource: Mosby’s Canadian Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests.
For example, if you’re a night person (like me), you have the option of watching your lectures at night when you’re most alert.
I love having the freedom to sleep in a bit later in the mornings or work around other commitments/appointments. This flexible schedule also frees you up for clinical placement opportunities, since some opportunities are only available certain days of the week (for example, an OR-day).
If necessary, you can take days off and make up the time the following day. You also have the option of getting all of your lectures & reading done early. Ultimately, you work at your own pace. The most beneficial part of online learning for me, however, was having the ability to pause, rewind, and re-watch lectures. I like to take detailed notes, so having this kind of freedom appeals to me.
Challenges of Distance Education
Like I said though, it’s not for everyone. You have to be disciplined enough to complete your work every day, time management skills are necessary to make a schedule. Nobody is tracking your progress or attendance, but your tests will come and go just as they would with regular lectures.
Additionally, sometimes school gets a little isolating when you don’t get to attend class and see your peers. Because of this, it’s of utmost importance to try and maintain balance in your life. Be sure to make time for yourself to unwind, which could include anything from jogging regularly to meeting up with friends for a few drinks. The program can be very stressful at times and it’s important that you don’t lose touch with yourself and your friends/family. Lastly, remember that you and your classmates are going through this together – they’re the only people who understand exactly how much you have on your plate right now. Try to keep in touch with classmates that might live in or around your home community and check the facebook group often.
I used to be skeptical of the distance education model. I think it comes down to an honest self-assessment: Do you need (or prefer) the guidance provided by a structured schedule?
A Benefit of Distance Education
The biggest “pro” for the distance education model at U of T is that it allows you to form connections in your home community. Between classes we are gaining clinical hours in our own cities and making relationships with health care providers. This can work to our benefit when we graduate and seek employment in the surrounding areas.
Alicia and her class of 2018 classmates finishing their final residential block and starting their 1st clinical rotation!