BMLA Guidelines for Online Courses

BMLA Guidelines for Online Courses


The following document is prepared by the Education Committee of the BMLA to help with the submission of applications for BMLA approval of digital platform courses.

1. Differences between face to face and online teaching / learning

CategoryConventional courses Online courses
VenueFixedUser choice
Travelling costsIncurredNone
Time off workNecessary, to travel to the course venueNot necessary, since online
Pace of learningAll at onceIndividually tailored
Learning assessment of the student, particularly in hand-on coursesRepresents core value Not available
Learning materialSupplemented by synchronous lecturesIn written format and via multi-media
Course designContent-centredLearning-centred
Practical demonstrationsPossible onsiteOnly via multi-media

2. It is worthwhile to consider the following points before you structure an online course:

2.1 Use of dedicated software facilitates design and involves upfront expenses.

There are a number of software programmes on the web to choose from. Your course will need to use online configuration to ensure certain norms: e.g., Course design, learning material, student assessment, learning pace etc.

2.2 Building online material involves considerable additional work.

The configuration of the material in conventional course is ‘teaching-oriented’, whereas, that on the online course is ‘learning-oriented’. It is not unusual to find that the text on slides in conventional course is brief. It is there, more to serve as a memory recall for the tutor. The main teaching thrust is then verbal.

On the other hand, the material in the online course needs to be expansive since there is no verbal support to the slides.

Reshaping conventional material will need considerable time for it to work online. In most instances, it might have to be redesigned.

2.3 Teaching students

In face to face courses, teaching the students is verbal and therefore, much faster. The process for online courses is slow and time consuming since everything has to be written down. Student queries by e-mails and responding, ideally within 24 hours, needs dedicated time allocation.

2.4 Progress of learning

In a classroom, everyone progresses simultaneously. However, in online teaching, learning is individually paced and therefore, stretches over a period of time.

2.5 Pace of learning

Self-paced learning should not mean unlimited pace. It also needs deadlines, without which the learning objective cannot be achieved.

2.6 Monitoring Learning activity

Online monitoring of learning activity can take three forms: Student-contents, student-faculty and student-student (group discussions).

Student-contents is achieved with MCQs. Student-faculty requires dedicated time. Student-student needs specifics of AV (audio-visual) group connections.

2.7 Multimedia teaching is a good supplement to text teaching

However, it is necessary to ensure that the online student has correct software and has software / hardware skills to use multimedia. If not universally accessible, the specific platforms should be clearly stated. Not all online courses are suitable to all prospective students

It is better to advertise the curriculum and a sample course for students to try, so that they take an informed decision to take the course.

The same ‘trial’ material submitted to the BMLA for approval will hasten the process.

2.8 If the use of group learning, so useful in classroom teaching (e.g. brain storming), is part of the course, it has to be purposely organised

This needs a high degree of organisation, and may be prohibitive for various reasons.

2.9 Correspondence course or online course?

You should not confuse between a correspondence course and online course. The former does not have an all-important ingredient of interaction of the online course which monitors student progress as mentioned under 2.6.

2.10 Modular learning

In modular learning, it is usual to assess student progress at the end of a module before progressing to the next module. It requires dedicated time commitment on the part of the tutor as well as the learner.

3. Structuring the online course

It is often useful to structure the course in reverse order. What is it that the tutor wants the students to learn (learning outcome) and, likewise, what is it that they wish to learn from the course (learning objective).

3.1 Content-centred vs Learner-centred

Face to face courses are content-centred. A syllabus is made of progression of the topics until the subject is exhaustively covered in given time. It is not uncommon to over-run a fixed ‘period of time’ in face to face courses in zeal to finish everything.

Online courses are learner-centred. They are not exhaustive. Rather, they are segmented by learning prioritises:  ‘Must learn (e.g. safety with the lasers)’, ‘Necessary to learn (e.g. depth of penetration of various lasers)’ and ‘Out of interest (e.g. construction of a laser machine)’.

3.2 Learning outcome / learning objective

The organiser needs to have a clear aim to teach the subject to the end-point of learning outcome: e.g., Laser hair removal. However, to the learner, the objective is to achieve competency in laser hair removal. Successful learning outcome fulfils learning objective.

3.3 Assessment

Learning objective needs to be assessed by student actions that are both observable and measurable. E.g. By the end of the module, students will be able to ‘Choose correct combination of Laser Power and Exposure time (a learning outcome), culminating into fulfilling a leaning objective of laser hair removal competently.

To achieve the learning objective, the student needs to acquire staged knowledge:

  • Memory recall of basic knowledge
  • Formulate its use for a given task
  • Apply the knowledge to the present task
  • Observe the effects
  • Analyse them
  • Conceptualised alternative settings to achieve the same goal

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) is the commonest way to assess fulfilment of learning objective. A number of variables can be built in to the MCQs: e.g., time limit, review option, attempts options etc. A grading of the score can be set at a certain value (e.g., 80%) to indicate learning objective (e.g. a minimum standard) is reached.

3.4 Finally, construct learning activity to reach the learning objective by preparing material.

This can be in the form of the text, PowerPoint, and other multimedia.

4. Standards

In the medical field, the student must reach a standard of learning (e.g. core knowledge of lasers at various levels) which meets the national, regional and/or institutional criteria. The assessment of the student objective (wish to learn) is assessed to the same standard, so that a successful leaner can be so awarded with certification.

5. BMLA approval

If you wish to seek BMLA approval status for your course, we would like to receive online course content structured along the above or similar pathways to consider approval. The initial approval will be for consecutive three years. If there is no material change, an application should be made for continuation of approval for a further three-year period. In case of significant changes, you would need to reapply with revised documentation to reflect the change.

6. BMLA does not levy any fees for approval of online or face to face courses.

BMLA considers one of its professional roles is to promote safe and competent laser practice by maintaining standard of training within the framework of BMLA approval process. To this extend, we do not provide a pre-designed application form to ensure a variety to suit various goals and criteria for training.

Authored by V Oswal: 06/06/2020