Set to launch next summer is DPT@USC, a hybrid program featuring a combination of online and on-campus courses, to train Doctor of Physical Therapy students, University of Southern California (USC) announces.

Two years ago, USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy was approached by 2U Inc—an education technology company that works with schools across the country—to build an online degree program comparable to what it offers in the classroom.

2U was interested in doing the same for USC’s doctor of physical therapy program. After much contemplation, led by Associate Dean James Gordon, the division decided to move forward with DPT@USC and launch it next summer, notes a news story from USC News.

“Our goal is to revolutionize how we educate physical therapists,” says Associate Professor of Clinical Physical Therapy Julie Tilson, director of DPT@USC. “This is our opportunity to do just that.”

Via the hybrid program, students will take the same courses that their on-campus counterparts do. They will study full-time, starting each week with asynchronous content — video combined with bidirectional learning materials — that after 10-minute chunks of instruction will require them to answer questions by looking for information on their own or by meeting with other students.

Every week, the news story continues, DPT@USC students will also meet with a professor from each of the courses they’re taking to continue in a live-classroom environment.

These meetings will take place for every course, so on average, hybrid students will spend 6 to 8 hours with faculty members in small-group settings every week.

And once or twice per semester, depending on the lab content, the hybrid students will be required to travel to USC for 6- to 8-day stints. Once on campus, they’ll be attending lab sessions, building on what they’ve learned.

“The motto of 2U is ‘no back row,’ ” Tilson adds. “You really can’t hide and not be asked questions about the material.”

Like the residential students, they will have mentorship and practice time during the immersion where they will refine and be tested on their physical skills. Over the 3-year program, hybrid students are expected to be on campus approximately 60 days for hands-on clinical skills laboratories, the story adds.

Associate Professor of Clinical Physical Therapy Dan Kirages sees opportunity for both future hybrid students as well as those who are part of the traditional program.

“Creating the hybrid program is allowing us to dissect our curriculum and really figure out what we are teaching, how we’re teaching it,” he says, in the news story. “We’re laying it out on the table and translating it from the residential to the hybrid program.”

While there are some other physical therapy online learning options, USC is the first research-intensive institution to offer a full-time entry-level doctor of physical therapy degree using a hybrid online/on-campus format, the news story notes.

“This program will continue to set us apart from the pack, and it does expand our reach,” Tilson shares.

[Source: USC News]