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Using Online Learning Technology in Yoga Teacher: An Interview with Learnpower Client Teri Sanders f

Tell us about yourself and how you got into yoga teacher training

Yoga North is a pretty small company. We are both a studio and a school. The running joke around here is that I came for my first level of teacher training and I just never left!!

I actually completed all 3 levels of the teacher training program and the advanced teacher training and yoga therapy at Yoga North. I was fortunate enough to be transitioning from my previous job at the same time Yoga North was looking for someone to come on board to help out in the office as they were growing and expanding. So there are 2 of us that help from the office, and my role is mostly around the teacher-training program and my title is Education Resource Coordinator. I do things like create the student handbook, order and distribute supplies and required reading materials for teacher training. The other big part of that is managing the online campus for all of our teacher training and Yoga therapy programs.

Tell us about the Teacher Training programs and how you offer them currently

Two levels of teacher training programs are offered in weekend modules. So once a month for a long weekend (Friday - Sunday) the students get together for an intensive training weekend. The first level teacher training is about 6 months. For advanced teacher training it is a 9 to 10 month program. Most of the hours are face-to-face hours, where the students are in direct contact with the teachers. We found that what we really wanted was a way to keep people connected throughout the month. And also, as an accredited school, we need to hang on to and retain student records to show that they have done their work, if ever we need that from the state of Minnesota as well as our accrediting body, Yoga Alliance and the International Association of Yoga Therapists. So using Learnpowers online system is a much more convenient way of doing that as opposed to the way people used to do it by keeping all of their essays etc. in a manila envelope and have to keep that on file.

So would this be considered a hybrid program, where they are taking non-contact hours online?

Yes, online study does count as non-contact hours. The majority of the required hours for the training program are required contact hours where the students are working directly with the teachers. But any assignments and other items they need to complete are done through Learnpowers online campus.

How does your student base react to the way you offer your programs; given that it is a little different than most programs: Once a month on campus rather than a more traditional way like 3 times a week in a classroom setting.

They really like it. Most of the people doing our teacher training have other full time jobs or are full time parents. Monday through Friday classes just would not be feasible for them. And we are an International Yoga Therapy School in that we draw people from Ontario as well as from North and South Dakota, and even as far away as Illinois. They are able to come all the way to Duluth Minnesota because we offer those weekend modules.

Do you think using technology, and not only the technology that we offer, has enabled you to maintain a high level of instruction, even with the model you have?

Absolutely. I think its great to be able to keep a pulse on the students, to see how they are doing with their work month to month which we can now do with Learnpowers online system. In addition to learning a lot of anatomy and physiology pieces of the yoga curriculum, a big portion of what we do focuses on the philosophy as well as a big chunk on personal development. So I think its nice for me as a teacher to be able to see how everyone is doing with that self study work. And it allows them to be able to go back to their communities, and not feel so alone, that they have a way to connect back in. It’s huge in that way. Some people love it, and some are afraid of technology. We have students ranging from 17 years old to in their 70’s, so we get very different levels of comfort ability with technology. But by the end of the program, most all have grown their skills, not just in Yoga, but being able to navigate technology, and feel more comfortable with that.

When you were a student, was this type of hybrid program offered?

When I finished my teacher training, they were just starting to play around with different program options. They were toying with the idea, but didn’t quite have a smooth implementation of it yet.

What do you think was the biggest hurdle you faced when setting up these modules with the content?

That’s a great question. All of the different teachers in the teacher training and yoga therapy courses have input in what they want the monthly homework for the students to be. Its challenging, sometimes getting peoples expectations in line with the reality of what we can do.

With regards to the online campus, has there been any part of it that has specifically made your life easier managing the school?

Everything! It just helps it feel so much more organized. The students are easily able to get in touch with me through the messaging, I know where everyone is at in getting their homework done, who is falling behind, who needs support in a certain area. The whole certification process has been streamlined and is now about 3 times faster than it used to be. Once a person is done with their course, its so much easier for me to look through all of their assignments and issue certification. If I had to pick 2 areas where online campus has made things easier its with analytics and assignments.

Where do you see yoga teacher training going in the future?

That’s a great question! I know that different organizations do it differently. There are a number of yoga schools that do their teacher training in a retreat type setting. And there are lots of other schools that do it like we do it, classes once a month or once a week.

Do you see more schools moving toward the flexible model?

Yes, I would think that people would need that flexibility because of the demands of daily life.

What advice would you give to other schools looking to create a hybrid model similar to Yoga North? What are some of the challenges you faced up front that you say, “Wow, if I knew then what I know now….”?

Well, it took us a couple of rounds to really think about how we wanted the online campus to be organized. And so we went from having it pretty disorganized and discombobulated, and now I have the whole system laid out for what the lessons look like, every module and the “between month” work and how its all organized. So for me the big learning curve was “How do we format it and lay it out in a way that its not overwhelming to the students?”

So you would say to really focus on the layout and creating it in small manageable “chunks” so to speak?

Yes, that’s a great way to phrase it.

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