In 1933, Henry Ford wrote to the President of the University of Chicago advocating the formation of a “University without Walls”. This was based off a survey done by University of Chicago, which suggested that the justification of correspondence study should be rooted in its experimental nature and that it should generate innovations and research data that would lead to improvements in teaching methodologies. In 1940, radio began to offer its first college credit course over the airwaves but failed to produce due to lack of enrollment. However, the 1960s and 1970s found educational television to be more effective. Remember watching Sesame Street growing up? During these times, colleges began taking another look at the University without Walls concept with Sierra University promoting methodologies of student-centered learning and the use of community resources as the student's campus.

Jump forward to today. More professionals are seeking online or e-learning. There is a great deal of research that supports the growth of online classrooms. By 2006, almost 3.5 million students participate in online learning at higher learning institutions in the US. Many institutions are offering online courses because it is all around more convenient for everyone: students, instructors and administrators. With the economy in a recession, more people are going back to school or taking certificate courses to better themselves in hopes to land a better job in the future. We saw this seven to eight years ago, during our last recession. 

Online Learning Benefits
Online courses are affordable, cost-efficient and more convenient than traditional classroom instruction. There are no overhead fees such as labs or highly paid instructors, all which accounts for approximately 10% to 30% of the course costs. This cost is reflected in our tuition and taxes, but we also have to take into consideration costs of travel to the institution: gas, time and vehicle wear-and-tear.

Online learning is also more effective. Learning is not a passive experience; it rests on the students shoulders. How many of us went to the first day of class not opening up our textbooks, expecting our instructors to work their magic? Instructors do not teach; they help people learn. Students must be motivated to learn in order to be an effective learner. That is the main responsibility of the student. Online training puts the responsibility of learning on the student. If they are motivated, they will complete the course. If not, then they often never start or finish the course. 

Three Options for You
Cloud9Fitness offers continuing education for personal trainers and other fitness authorities. Founded in 2006 by graduates of Washington University's Medical and Physical Therapy programs, their love of fitness found them offering exercise science classes to their classmates and the general public. The focus soon became the creation of Continuing Education Courses (CECs) to help student trainers complete school and personal training requirements. Cloud9Fitness found that individuals are hesitant to get involved with CECs because it was enforced, and the professional was not excited about taking the course. In their research, they also found instructors did not have the best personal approach or a way for people to contact them back. Here, you can always contact them. They conduct all the fitness research and create the courses themselves. Cloud9Fitness has also recognized the trend for online courses, allowing students to purchase home study course and have access to online videos.

Educational Fitness Solutions (EFS), Inc. was founded in 2002 by a panel of industry experts specializing in providing two- and four-year universities as well as community colleges’ turn-key solutions in providing online professional certificate programs, specialized web-based health and fitness courses. What makes this program unique is it is instructor-led, meaning that you will listen to the instructor go through each slide presentation as if you were in a classroom setting. You can download it on to your mp3 player and listen to it again at your convenience. However, you do not have to be affiliated with a college to partake in this program; it is open to all allied health professionals who want to seek more specialized knowledge in other fields of health. The program began with the Certificate in Personal Training but now offers others, including Senior Personal Training, Women’s Exercise Training and Wellness, Nutrition and Fitness Management. 

Desert Southwest (DSW) Fitness is probably the most well-known online continuing education provider. They have been providing CECs since 1980, specializing in self-directed distance learning and offering the largest selection of home study courses from many recognized fitness and medical pros. Recognizing the need to form alliances with the medical industry, they also offer courses to medical and allied health professionals. DSW Fitness offers a variety of CEC opportunities from home study courses to webinars and online courses in all areas of health and fitness. As with Cloud9Fitness, DSW also realized the need for online education and began offering online courses in 1997. 

Long gone are the days of paper and pencil. We know trends come and go, but there are no excuses when it comes to keeping abreast in our industry. As our industry becomes more regulated, we must choose to find ways to foster our growth and development. The choice is not bounded by where you are located — only by our own motivation to better ourselves as fitness professionals. 

Jasmine Jafferali is the program coordinator and an instructor for Educational Fitness Solutions Inc. ( She created the online professional certificate in Women's Exercise Training & Wellness, an interactive online web-based certificate program designed to ensure the development of safe and effective exercise programs for women by personal trainers, allied health/medical and fitness professionals and the general public. Jasmine specializes in women's health and wellness and is a master trainer for Resist-a-ball and Healthy Moms Fitness.