Distance Learning for Midwives

MidwiferyEducationLast time we talked about questions you need to ask to determine if international training is right for your midwifery path.  Today I want to give you some questions to ask as you consider the possibility of distance learning programs. 

I’m old enough to be familiar with the concept of a correspondence course, and every time I hear the term distance learning my brain goes straight to correspondence.  But modern distance learning programs offer much more than a module to work through and a faceless grader when it is completed. The internet allows distance learning to be dynamic, integrating group sessions and independent work while allowing you to remain in your home community.

Distance learning is no longer associated with “lesser” value learning. Instead it is a growing phenomena that has made its way into mainstream education.  Not only do small schools of midwifery offer distance programs, but so do major universities.  This means you can use distance learning for your midwifery education whether you plan to be a nurse midwife or a direct entry midwife. Most students I know who consider distance learning are interested in it for the flexibility and convenience.

However, distance learning is not for everyone. Here are some questions to help you evaluate distance programs to see if one might be right for you.

1. Is the program accredited for the license you want to pursue? You lose time and money if you don’t ask this question first.

2. Will the program provide enough support to complete assignments? How do you ask questions of the instructor? What type of feedback will you receive on your work? Does the program provide access to midwifery journals, or will you need to secure access on your own? How do you turn in your assignments? Even the most motivated student can run into problems if the program doesn’t provide the support she needs.

3. Will the program provide enough incentive to complete the work in a timely manner?  If you need due dates to keep you on track, an open ended program may not be a good match for you. On the flip side, if you need flexibility to take a few months off here and there, a highly structured program may not be a good match. If you don’t know how much external motivation you need test yourself with a small assignment or free online study module for a week or two.  When you evaluate programs, look for those that provide the amount of structure you need to get the work done.  If you cannot find a match, you may be better off with an in-person course.

4. How much help will the program provide in securing a preceptor? While the book learning is necessary, it is not sufficient. Midwifery is a skill that is passed on from midwife to midwife. If you already have good relationships with the midwives in your area you may not need any assistance.  If you know of some midwives but just need help understanding how to define the student role and set up a contract, you may want to look for programs that offer sample documents. If you live in an area without a midwife, a distance program cannot prevent the need to relocate to be able to attend births with an experienced midwife.

5. What additional materials are you required to purchase? A program that seems like a good value may quickly become too expensive if you didn’t realize you were expected to buy hundreds of dollars in books and equipment.  Or a program that sounds like a good education may quickly feel weak if all the texts are written by the same individual. Look for a balance that provides multiple voices without being cost prohibitive.

Has this list made you think of other questions to ask when you are considering distance programs?