Research Summary: Online versus In-Person Learning of Hands-On PT Skills • Posts by EIM | Evidence In Motion Skip To Content

Research Summary: Online versus In-Person Learning of Hands-On PT Skills

August 6, 2020 • Education • Brett Neilson

A 2014 paper in the Journal of Physical Therapy Education looked at student learning of psychomotor skills through online video instruction versus in-person instruction.

Summary: For this study, they took 53 PT students and randomly assigned them to face-to-face instruction or online video instruction. For the online instruction, a digital video file with voiceover was produced by program faculty, with content expertise in the evaluation and treatment of the cervical spine, using a standard digital video camera. (the same method we will use). They were taught 2 examination techniques and 2 treatment techniques in these two environments. After instruction and 2-days of practice, their performance was evaluated and scored using a standard rubric.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • There was no statistical difference in skill performance between the two groups.
  • After cross-over (they learned the same techniques again via the opposite method) there still was no difference, but they all scored better the second time.
  • Another conclusion is that live and online demonstrations resulted in the best performance.


You can access the full paper online here.


van Duijn, Arie J., PT, MSPT, EdD, OCS; Swanick, Kathy, PT, DPT, OCS; Donald, Ellen Kroog, PT, MSPT Student Learning of Cervical Psychomotor Skills Via Online Video Instruction Versus Traditional Face-to-Face Instruction, Journal of Physical Therapy Education: January 2014 – Volume 28 – Issue 1 – p 94-102

Brett Neilson

Dr. Brett Neilson has 11 years experience as a staff therapist as well as clinic director. Additionally, he was a contractor for the U.S. Air Force and has served as Trial Coordinator, coordinating the day-to-day activity on two large multi-center randomized controlled trials in knee osteoarthritis and low back strengthening for Army combat medics. Currently...

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