Over the last few years many companies have popped up that offer online CPR certifications. Some of the certifications follow strict industry guidelines and eLearning best practices while others let you watch an outdated PowerPoint and give you a certification with limited value that is unlikely to be accepted by most organizations or employers.
If an online program is well designed it can effectively transfer the information associated with CPR. For a complete educational experience there will always be a skill component which must happen offline. For you to be able to best perform CPR in an emergency you should have had the opportunity to practice CPR in a classroom first. An offline class with a quality instructor will enable you to have immediate feedback about how your skills are progressing. Perhaps the most effective blend of online and offline is a model which permits you to learn the fundamentals online and then meet with an instructor in person or via video chat to practice the skills.
If you are must have a CPR certification to meet an employer’s requirements, adhere to governmental regulations, or other external constraints make sure that the class you enroll in will meet those benchmarks. Some policies state which organizations can certify you while others state the length of the program or content to be covered. In the United States the major organizations which grant the most widely accepted CPR certifications are the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, National Safety Council, and American Safety and Health Institute. Many companies grant certifications through one of these large organizations and in doing so they commit to adhering to the educational standards set forth by that larger organization. Companies which offer their own certification may meet or even exceed those standards but lack the external validation associated with the national groups. Without that external validation the “independent” certifications may not be accepted by employers or governments.
The American Heart Association (AHA) offers two CPR courses which are available partially online. Heartsaver CPR AED and BLS for the Healthcare Provider follow the same 3 part format. Part one is online and focuses on the concepts and facts about CPR. Part two and three are both conducted in person with an AHA Instructor. Part two is for practicing skills and part three is the skills test to complete the certification. Enrolling in either class gives students access to the online portion for two years following the course making refreshing their knowledge easy. The skills will still fatigue making in person practice essential for staying competent.
The American Red Cross has an entirely online First Aid and CPR course which they describe as “self-paced, highly interactive, and allows you to customize how you learn.” This particular class does not grant a certification and would likely be appropriate for someone who would like the knowledge but does not require a certification. The American Red Cross does not offer an online class for certification but their in person classes include access to an online knowledge refresher.
The National Safety Council (NSC) offers something similar to the AHA in that an online course is available but to receive the certification students must meet with an instructor in person.
The American Safety and Health Institute (ASHI) allows students to take an online course and then meet with an instructor for skills training and verification much like the NSC and AHA. A unique option available through ASHI is for students to complete the online course and then do the skills portion remotely through a video chat with an instructor. This option requires students have a CPR manikin but with the cost of some manikins under $40 USD this may be a great choice for some. Additionally owning the manikin allows for on going practice. Some training centers will rent manikins when students enroll in this format of class but it varies with the company.
When evaluating a potential class see if you can look at a sample of the course. Viewing the class will give you a sense of the quality of the material and ensure that any technical requirements are met. Great eLearning programs give students the chance to think and interact through scenarios, games, and other activities. Quality courses often feature videos, animations, and will be accessible on mobile devices as well as traditional computers. Some programs may include message boards or chat options so you can get questions answered. If you find yourself with unanswered questions at the completion of a course and you will be meeting with an instructor bring your questions to see if the instructor can help.
In summary, make sure the course will meet your needs. If you need a certification look for classes that specifically state they provide a certification and do so through a respected organization like the AHA, ARC, NSC, or ASHI. If you have any questions about the acceptance of a certification check with your employer or governing body first. If you only need the knowledge look for classes that are high quality and media rich which may happen to also offer a certification. Take any opportunity to develop and practice the skills associated with CPR.