"As a student, do you believe you can learn a hands on technique online?" This question was asked last week in an online blog I was reading. I can't say that I was surprised to find that the answer from the discussion participants was an overwhelmingly large "NO"! I can, however say, I disagree.

I think students can learn the principles of techniques online. How well they learn them will depend on the student, their level of expertise and the particular class being taught! I don't think students learn from archaic black and white photos with "how to" text, nor do they learn well if they have no experience giving or receiving massage. Clearly the format of a class has an impact. An instructor in the room gives feedback - video doesn't. Video incorporates sound and visual components that text can't. But when you get down to it, how many students walk away from an 8 hour live CE course with a mastery of the techniques taught? Very few.

To me there are two crucial factors that must be met for a student to be able to successfully learn any technique (online or otherwise).

  • Does the student understand the intention of the movement?
  • Does the student have the palpation skills/ cognitive understanding of anatomy needed to locate the tissues the technique targets?

If these two factors are met, even if the student has never attempted the skill, they have the necessary ingredients required to effectively begin practicing the technique.

After all, in order to learn, and certainly to master, any hands on technique one must practice it.

So my argument is that students don't learn techniques in class, they learn the components of technique. The real learning takes place when they integrate the feedback from the person they are practicing on with the feedback they are receiving from their own hands and bodies! Practice is how a therapist learns the subtleties of a technique. Sure it is ideal to have an instructor there to guide where and how to place your hands when learning a new massage move, but is it absolutely necessary in order to learn the technique? I don't think so. Practice, however, is crucial regardless of the learning environment.