Is an online learning program enough for future Pharmacy technicians?

Pharmacy technicians must prepare for people, workplace stressors, technology troubles and drug management. 

Students can choose to prepare for a career as a pharmacy technician through an online program if they are self-motivated or are already working in the medical field. 

However, online education is no substitute for student-instructor interaction but a good alternative for people who already have medical knowledge and feel ready to go at it alone. 

In-person programs teach students practical learning skills.

Our courses do include technical, medical information that can be challenging at times. But, after all, those skills will determine patient outcomes.

Students genuinely benefit from in-person learning when memorizing thousands of chemicals, compounds, and local/state/federal regulations on drug handling. 

Our instructors teach methods needed to understand and retain this sometimes overwhelming amount of knowledge. 

A group setting and networking are critical to the development of interpersonal skills.

Another critical advantage of every in-person learning program is networking and learning from people from diverse backgrounds. Networking allows students to share learning methods, encourage each other thru discussions about the material covered in the course and provides a system of support by peers that share the same goal.

Meticulously dispensing medication, tracking recalled and expired medicine, and managing controlled substances while smiling for the next customer requires lots of training and interpersonal skills. 

Research shows online interpersonal skills training faces many challenges. For example, learners lack the opportunity for skill practice because the online learning environment lacks face-to-face interaction. In addition, the lack of self-motivation makes it challenging to ensure learners practice skills on their own despite how critical they are to the job.

Too much reliance on technology can be both a blessing and a curse. 

Due to the cost of healthcare, customers may choose to avoid costly doctor visits and refer to their pharmacy technician after conducting an online search regarding symptoms. Online students have limited access to the immediate instructor feedback available to in-person classrooms. This feedback is needed to ensure students learn the knowledge retention skills, interpersonal skills and digital savvy required to reach the workforce. 

While students may communicate with instructors via message boards or e-mail, this communication flow will not be instant or smooth. A delay or a none response will hinder the completion of assignments or make learning a complex idea altogether impossible. 

The digital-savvy disparity will increase dropout rates.

Add to this delay a disparity in technical knowledge among students/instructors, and the prospect of completing the pharmacy technician certification begins to seem too overwhelming and frustrating. 

Online students should be able to use and troubleshoot laptops and learning software independently. In addition, IT specialists might not be available around the clock to help students navigate their technical knowledge disparity. 

According to some experts, these frustrations increase the likelihood of students dropping out.

Besides having a high incidence of dropouts, online programs are more likely to be scams or not adequately accredited. Therefore, students should avoid online programs that are not ASHP accredited. 

Blog Post written by:
Erica Vandorin
Pharmacy Technician Instructor