Online Learning: A Pivotal Change

Updated: May 19, 2020

Comfort in the Classroom

By now, PA educators have been teaching online for a few weeks. As we can expect, an online learning environment is very different from the classroom. We were raised in the system of traditionalism: professors teach from the podium and students learn from their desks. We know how to help students learn in the classroom. We know whether we’re reaching our students or not. We know how to make small connections. Now, many PA educators, myself included, are adjusting to a new way of teaching and checking for understanding.


A Change in Perspective

We’ve been torn from the podium and moved to an online classroom—and not all of us know how to help students learn this way. We don’t know whether we’re reaching our students anymore. And we don’t know how to make those important connections as well.


This is a pivotal time for PA educators. Perspectives on traditional teaching and learning are being challenged and changed. Different pedagogies are being considered and tried. New delivery methods are getting tested. As we adapt to an online learning environment, we’re learning how to be educators all over again in a new way.


We have doubts, of course—if we can’t manage this, our students will lack the skills and knowledge they need to become Physician Assistants. If we don’t create a smooth transition, there won’t be continuity for our students’ learning. What if our students are struggling and we no longer know how to help them?

Yet, we must have the courage and drive to do what is necessary to help our students succeed. PA educators are already thinking creatively and using new strategies for online learning. We are becoming more innovative. And we are already experiencing success away from the podium.

Student Resilience

Part of this success is due to our students. Though I worry PA educators—again, myself included—may struggle to gauge how well our students are reaching the learning outcomes and expectations, these same students are displaying great resilience. They have adapted quickly to this new normal and are probably struggling less than the PA educators when it comes to the virtual classroom. Their flexibility is the reason for our success.


Adjusting to a New Normal

At some point, we will return to some degree of normalcy. PA students will return to the classroom. Faculty will return to their offices. But PA education will not be the same. Hybrid methods may likely prevail. Professors will have new strategies and delivery methods to use in the classroom. New means of ensuring proficiency in clinical skills will streamline the laboratory environment. And ultimately, our relationship with our students will change. Hopefully, we’ll come back as even better facilitators of learning. We’ll certainly return knowing our students are resilient and capable of more than we thought. The interactive classroom will be different, and the podium will never be the same.

© 2021 by Massey & Martin, LLC

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