Touch is known to be a key facilitator for embodied learning for physiotherapy students. Through embodied learning, students use their body and touch as tools to deepen their anatomical understandings of different bodies, communicate abstract concepts, and in interacting with others. Hands-on skill development enables the integration of knowledge, skill, and affective domains to create an embodied understanding and body awareness. Pandemic-related restrictions meant many students were unable to attend practical classes face to face. Instead, tutorials transitioned online, taking students and lecturers on a journey never before travelled in the field of physiotherapy. Staff and students, no longer able to use touch for embodied learning, had to find new ways of thinking, being, and doing to achieve this online. This article presents one student's experience of online learning through the three-act structure of the Vogler model of the hero's journey (Vogler, C, The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structures for Writers, 25th Anniversary, 4th Ed., Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City, CA, 2020). Vogler offers a 12-stage arc, known to correspond with many Hollywood movies and fiction books. Considering how the different stages relate to the learning experience provided a framework that facilitated the learner's reflection. The first act illustrates the learner's pre-pandemic world, the adaptations to learning due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the online learning adventure. Act 2 provides the path to the midpoint, with allies, enemies, trials, and rewards. The hero's journey concludes with the third act, detailing the gradual return from pandemic restrictions and an appreciation for the new skills developed through online learning. A final section provides three recommendations for the future of online learning.



Cite as

Blackburn, L. & Shanmugam, S. 2023, 'An unexpected journey: a physiotherapy student's experience of embodied learning online during the pandemic', International Journal on Innovations in Online Education. https://doi.org/10.1615/IntJInnovOnlineEdu.2023045613

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Last updated: 08 January 2024
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