Certification mills vs. blended learning

I read a great article this morning in one of the CPR First Aid Instructor forums I belong to; Unmasking the Certification Mill Problem published in Occupational Health and Safety. This is a topic I'm pretty passionate about.

Online-only CPR and First Aid certification websites are scams. They promise "nationally accepted" certification that you take in your home and you can print your card on your own printer. Unfortunately most employers and licensing boards will not accept these cards. Why? Because there is no hands-on component to the course.

I did a quick search on my blog and discovered over the past 4 years I've written on this topic a few times. Starting with Online CPR First Aid courses in 2009, I've written Be wary of some online BLS courses, False CPR certification, Video or computer based training versus learning it the old fashioned way, and I received this comment.... On my Coastal CPR & First Aid Blog I've posted What is online certification. So yes, I guess you can say I'm a little passionate about the topic.

CPR AED and First Aid are practical skills. You learn by, well, practicing the skills. It's kinda like learning how to drive. If you watch a video about how to drive a car, or take an online course on how to drive a car.... do you know how to drive a car?

When I teach a class I have a very specific goal. If I collapse in the parking lot after the class I want to know that I have trained the participants in my class well enough that they can help me. Whether it be with First Aid or CPR. If someone leaves my class and can't do that then I have failed both them and myself.

However there is some confusion over some very good BLENDED courses, which contain an online component.

Blended courses have 2 or 3 parts. Part 1 is online. It is the cognitive portion and usually has a written exam you must pass. Part 2 and Part 3 are a classroom skills session with an instructor. This is where you learn the practical skills of CPR AED and First Aid.

What is confusing is some organizations like the American Heart Association use the term "online" in their blended course titles. Many people needing certification who have been told they cannot take an online course are hesitant to take a blended course because of the online portion.

Blended courses are valid courses. Just make sure the certification meets the requirements for your employer or licensing. Some organizations require certification from a specific organization like the American Heart Association or American Red Cross. A few of these online certification mills will try to mimic the name of a nationally recognized organization (AHA) or the name on their card (BLS for Healthcare Providers or CPR for the Professional Rescuer).

Be wary of courses that claim you can be certified without practicing any of the skills. Ask questions if the course time seems to short. You may be paying for a certification card that is worthless.


  1. I am glad to know about your blog. I am very ignorant in the area of medical. Several years ago thank God someone told me the red line going up my son's leg from a 2 day old splinter was not a good thing. I was pretty much sure he should just brave it out. And yesterday's oral surgery that my daughter had left me asking the groggy teenager what I should do next. She is planning on pursuing nursing and knows way more than I do. I think the blood issue has always turned me off but now I am thinking I'm the one who needs to brave it out!

  2. Great points. I love online learning but there are some things like CPR that need that one on one interaction.


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