In 2016, students will find the CAAHEP accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography schools offer varying program formats. For example, except for the General/Vascular sonography program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, all the CAAHEP accredited online program courses are taken online and the clinical training is completed at an approved medical facility. However, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee General/Vascular sonography program uses a blended format, as does Montgomery College in Maryland and many other schools. What does that mean?
Blended Courses for the Right Mix
All CAAHEP ultrasound programs meet stringent quality standards, including the Diagnostic Medical Sonography accredited schools that offer online ultrasound programs. Students must complete required credits in certain subjects according to the sonography program curriculum and also complete laboratory and clinical sonography training.
There are three Diagnostic Medical sonography schools that offer online CAAHEP accredited programs. They are at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jackson College in Michigan and Washburn University in Kansas. All didactic coursework is offered online except for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee General/Vascular sonography program. Because of the nature of the vascular sonography training component, the coursework is completed online and on campus in classrooms. It is a blended format sonography program.
At Montgomery College in Maryland, the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program also offers a blended format. A blended format is merely a format in which students take some classes online and attend some classes on campus. Most of the required on-campus courses are usually lab classes that require hands-on training in one of the classroom labs. At every school, the clinical training is hands-on at a medical facility like a hospital, clinic or physician office.
Convenience at the Diagnostic Medical Sonography accredited schools
Taking online classes at one of the Diagnostic Medical Sonography accredited schools is convenient for many reasons. The student gets the following benefits:
- Access courses at any time of day or night
- Learn at his or her own pace
- Practice and get comfortable with technical skills
- Avoid traffic associated with commuting
- Enjoy independent learning
- Strengthen organizational skills
- Balance school attendance and personal responsibilities
These are the advantages of taking online classes. The main disadvantages concern personal traits and preferences. Not everyone like online classes because they enjoy live lectures and the face-to-face interactions with fellow students. It does take self-discipline to attend virtual classrooms. It is a matter of personal preferences.
How are the virtual classes delivered? Blackboard is one of the most popular and widespread systems used, so it is discussed as an example.
The Virtual Blackboard
Blackboard is a technology company that has developed a variety of programs for K-12, higher education, government and business. The Montgomery College website says the school uses Blackboard Learn and the Elluminate program that enables the delivery of online lectures. Blackboard acquired Elluminate, so they are now the same company, and Elluminate is called Blackboard Collaborate.
Blackboard Collaborate is a virtual classroom that allows learners to view and share presentations and screens. The webinar platform also has two-way audio and text chat. A student can sit at home and listen to a live lecture and see a shared whiteboard. The program also has polling, meaning the lecturer can ask students questions and get immediate feedback. Students and faculty can also share materials as they become available during the class.
Some lectures are pre-recorded videos that the sonography students can watch at any time and learn at their own pace. The instructor can upload the curriculum, homework, quizzes and notes. Blackboard Collaborate can also be used for faculty advising and tutoring.
Pursue the Sonography Career
Technology has advanced so much that DMS programs with online classes can virtually recreate almost the same learning experience of a classroom. There is growing use of online courses because of their convenience, making it possible for students to pursue a degree or certificate in Diagnostic Medical Sonography that they would not have been able to purse otherwise.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography accredited schools that offer blended formats enable more sonography students to complete their training. The demand for sonographers is expected to increase over the next five years as the health system undergoes a transformation, and it just may be technology that helps fill the workforce gaps.