Massage Magazine: Saldana and other massage school leaders share pandemic learnings

Spring Saldana, BCTMB writes for Massage Magazine about how NWHSU’s massage program has embraced technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is highlighted alongside other massage school leaders in this round-up of pandemic responses.  


Massage Magazine

The Pandemic’s Silver Lining: Massage Education Embraces Technology

by: Spring Saldana, BCTMB, Massage Therapy Program Chair and Faculty

The COVID-19 pandemic brought immense challenges and changes to every facet of life. Notably, it overturned the education system, forcing schools and universities to rapidly shift to a virtual learning environment. This created a disruptive transition for students and was especially true for those engaged in hands-on educational programs such as massage therapy. Rather than shutting programs down, institutions were forced to alter the way they trained and evaluated the next generation of professionals nearly overnight.

Educators in massage programs like those at Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU) remained committed to creating a new model for such intensive and hands-on learning—an area of study that has always been reliant on in-person instruction and touch. With keeping six feet away from others and only touching with our elbows, imagine the difficulty this posed.

Undeterred, leaders were committed to providing students with the education they signed up for and deserved despite isolating to the learn-from-home environment and without delay.

There was one major roadblock. This new model relied heavily on technology, posing challenges to students and instructors alike who have chosen a face-to-face field, one connected to the movement and repair of the body, not to a monitor and power cord. However, through patience and understanding, educators and students collaborated and created a new system for learning massage therapy that did not just meet the required educational standards, but also enhanced the learning experience.

One silver lining from the pandemic is that massage education embraced technology and it now plays an essential role in the education model. Although hands-on learning will never entirely be replaced, innovative tools now provide an immersive experience for both the instructor and student.

NWHSU began piloting GoPros for a high-flex education option. The captivating video experience allows educators to present an up-close visualization of manipulations and movements, walking students through each step. Because the videos are recorded and available online, students can rewatch and practice, enhancing their educational experience and increasing knowledge retention.

Similarly, NWHSU integrated with GoReact, a video assessment software that allows students to demonstrate skills by recording their movements. While watching the videos, instructors provide individualized feedback for each student, pausing the video at specific points to deliver comments on soft tissue manipulations. Students found this one-on-one learning style incredibly valuable, adding to their education experience.

Educators also implemented Panopto, a video integration software and a step up from the traditional slide deck presentation. This tool offers another immersive learning experience from the safety of home. Massage students and instructors alike enjoy these components as the tools provide a sense of being in the classroom and with one another.

Even as we are shifting to a hybrid education model of remote and in-person learning, these new tools have found a place in the massage education curriculum. Students are seeking out programs offering this level of flexibility, personalization and one-on-one experience with instructors.

This is just the beginning. We suspect that five years from now, technology will be integrated into every massage education class to enhance the learning experience, increase retention and offer more flexibility for students and educators. This bodes well for the profession as more students become involved in the health care field and seek rewarding careers through massage.