The development of an online PA program has been a long time coming. Other health professions jumped on the online education bandwagon years ago, but until recently, PA schools were limited to on-campus programs.
The slower emergence of online PA programs may be attributable to the rigor typically involved in a traditional PA program. Most PAs will tell you that the key to molding pre-PA students into fully formed, confident PAs who are ready to practice medicine is the intensity of the training, compressed into a short 2-3 year interval. This has been a cornerstone of PA education since the beginning of the profession.
Online-based healthcare degree programs, on the other hand, often move at a slower pace, or at the student’s own pace, a model that does not fit well with the factors that have led to success in traditional PA programs. Online programs also run the risk of devaluing a degree, due to the possible perception that a degree earned through online learning is easier to obtain than through the traditional university model.
However, that model is changing. The recently opened Yale PA Online program has combine the intensity of the traditional on-campus PA program with the convenience of online education. It is the first full time online PA program available. The program was developed very thoughtfully, and includes distance learning versions of what has made the on-site Yale PA program successful for many years.
Jim Van Rhee, the program director for the Yale PA Online Program, was kind enough to field my questions on the new program.
Yale PA Online program opened for applications the week of November 21. Application deadlines include a priority deadline of August 1, 2017 and a final deadline of October 1, 2017. The program has applied for accreditation-provisional from ARC-PA, which if received, would occur in September 2017. The first matriculating class in January of 2018 would include 48 students.
Not all applicants will need to complete an interview, but if one is conducted, it will be online. The program is full time and, like most other PA programs, students are discouraged from working while in the program. The estimated cost of the 2-year program is $89,964.
Both the online and on-campus programs cover the same curriculum, have courses taught by Yale School of Medicine faculty, have the same academic standards and admissions requirements, and share clinical placement requirements.
The first half of the program will be didactic, incorporating live classes, video, and small groups to deliver the course content. Students will then spend half the program completing clinical rotations in or near their own communities. Yale placement specialists will identify and secure clinical rotation sites for students.
Three in-person immersions will take place on Yale’s New Haven, Connecticut, campus during the course of the program. These are each a week long and are required. During the immersions, students will demonstrate their skills in simulated and real-world environments.
The Yale PA Online website has a ton of useful information for those interested in the program, but I still had some questions for Jim Van Rhee.
When requesting more information through the website, some students are receiving replies that the program is not yet offered in their area. Is this due to pending accreditation? Or is the program starting with in-state/regional applicants first?
The program is currently accepting applications only from students who reside in the 17 states listed on the website. This restriction is due to regulations regarding online programs which vary by state. In the future, the program may be offered in additional states at which time the website will be updated.
[I could not find this list on the website, but I spoke with an admissions counselor who informed me that currently, residents of 16 states are eligible for the program: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. The list should be available under “Accreditation & Licensure” as more states are added.]
Do students applying by the priority deadline have an increased chance of acceptance, or is this only to allow for sufficient time to facilitate financial aid?
Meeting the priority deadline does not increase the chance of acceptance.
The plan for the online coursework looks very detailed and structured. To keep the class sessions small, will students be completing these sessions on their own time within a given time frame or will there be a set schedule of sessions in which they can participate?
The entire class will progress as a cohort. All courses are comprised of live class sessions and self-directed learning. The curriculum is rolled out to the student in an organized fashion. As students complete the work, this provides the foundation for upcoming work and live sessions. Each course includes self-directed learning activities through high-quality videos, reading assignments, discussion prompts and other activities. The videos aren’t your traditional lecture video filmed from the back of a classroom. They range in style from a faculty member illustrating a concept on an LED board to roundtable discussions modeling the Socratic method of learning. Then students take part in scheduled live sessions that will utilize problem-based learning (PBL) and other small group activities. Students will work in small groups of 10-12 students with a faculty member and work through real medical cases.
[PBL is a very common teaching style used in PA programs and medical schools. It is an incredibly helpful way to learn how to find information, use resources, and forces self-directed learning. My PA program used this and it forced me to break my college habit of procrastination. It is kind of the worst while you are doing it, but so incredibly useful in teaching your how find quality information on your own, which will help you significantly when you are in practice.]
How will end of unit exams be conducted after each clinical rotation?
They will be completed online by the students using Proctortrack for exam security.
Will the Yale PA Online program be joining CASPA?
At this time, we are using our own application system and have streamlined the application process for the applicant, to allow for a quicker turnaround time.
The online program class size is similar to the on-campus program. Is there a plan for the online class size to increase in the next few years?
Growth will depend on the program outcomes and accreditation. While the program may receive accreditation approval for additional students, the program will only increase in class size if we are satisfied with the outcomes and meet the benchmarks we have developed.
Are there any attributes that you are looking for in an online program applicant that are different from an on-campus applicant?
The criteria are in line with Yale standards. We are looking for many of the same characteristics that all established PA programs look for in successful candidates. In addition, we know in order to thrive in our program students need to be motivated and prepared to take ownership of their learning.
Time will tell if the PA online program model will be more broadly implemented, but certainly it seems likely. It is an interesting concept that allows for greater opportunity to meet the growing need for PAs.
The Yale program has an incredibly detailed website, and I encourage you to check out it out. There is far more information there than most established PA programs offer on their websites.
We will continue to explore new and developing PA programs on the blog. Stay tuned for more PA Program Profiles in the future.
[Edit: The original post incorrectly stated that Jim Van Rhee was the program director for both the Yale University PA Program and the Yale PA Online program. The correction has been made in the above text.]