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Report

Private optics academy sets sights on raising the bar

04/06/2018By Lewis Williams PhD
A new organisation has been established that is aiming to redefine advanced ophthalmic optics training and delivery in Australia. LEWIS WILLIAMS attended the academy’s launch in Sydney to report on what transpired.

The new Academy of Advanced Ophthalmic Optics (AAOO) was launched at an event held at the Pullman Quay Grand in Sydney’s Circular Quay precinct, with the stated aim of redefining “the state of advanced ophthalmic optics education delivery in Australia to be commensurate with industry world leaders.”

The organisation was founded by husband and wife duo Grant and Thao Hannaford, a dispenser and optometrist respectively who want to deliver a standard of education beyond that delivered by the current suppliers of undergraduate education.

Support for the new venture reads like a who’s who of the industry: OA, ADOA, ODMA, YO, School of Optometry and Vision Science (UNSW), TAFE NSW, Dean Robinson Group (business consultants), Rodenstock, Hoya, Essilor, Eyecare Plus, and the Institut Superieur D’Optique all had representatives at the launch.

"The AAOO is offering mentoring programs to its successful students at various levels"

According to the AAOO, the relatively recent realignment of optical dispensing courses to the perceived needs at the coalface in a deregulated ‘retail’ environment, has presented an opportunity to provide a more technical approach to optics education.

The idea is to bridge the expanding gap between the knowledge imparted by the incumbent suppliers and the knowledge required to deal with increasingly complex spectacle lenses and optical appliances, such as PPLs and wrap-around styles spectacles.

At the launch, Mr Hannaford said the AAOO is not trying to supplant the current suppliers of optical dispensing education, rather it is trying to build on the base those operators provide. However, while a sound grounding in mathematics is required to cope with much of the content, the courses are not predicated on students already possessing a Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing.

Optometry is also targeted with the aim of enhancing the patient experience well beyond the consulting room, largely through superior and more appropriate dispensing.

Grant Hannaford
Grant Hannaford

Given the optometric profession’s focus is often on therapeutics, it is easy to understand why dispensing has slipped in importance in the eyes of many. Unfortunately, it is frequently dispensing where a practice’s reputation is made or sullied.

Uniquely, the AAOO is offering mentoring programs to its successful students at various levels, ranging from weekly support meetings (including case presentations) to on-demand consultations in a practice.

Course delivery

The modules will take the format of a series of lecture-style notes with embedded progress checks that allow the student to assess their progress and understanding of the material already covered. Slide presentations and, where appropriate, spreadsheets, are an integral part of information delivery.

Competency is determined via online course assessments, and feedback and results are provided to the student. Courses with a practical component also require the completion of nominated stages before proceeding to further practical sessions.

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While it is planned that practical blocks will be held in Sydney predominantly, other locations are possible if student numbers justify such a move. Most courses culminate in a two-day seminar with a final assessment at the end, while the Edging and Fitting Foundation Course culminates in a three-day seminar.

Meanwhile, Lens Design is an online venture with the Advanced Ophthalmic Optics 2 course a prerequisite.

Thao Hannaford
Thao Hannaford

The AAOO has chosen Moodle, an academic delivery system used widely by tertiary institutions worldwide, as its online platform.

All launch attendees were provided with a personalised login to the academy’s portal, where examples of lectures, review questions, case studies, and a sample quiz were available for review. A quick tour through the samples offered led this writer to reach the conclusion that “these guys are serious!”

Despite being essentially a CL person, my interest in optics has never waned, yet it had been many years since I considered some of the material presented and some of the material presented was familiar to me only in general form, not at the ‘how to calculate the outcome’ level.

In my opinion, the use of ‘advanced’ in the venture’s name is justified. However, it also targets the real world of ophthalmic practice and the dispensing challenges (obtaining an optimum result) and problems therein. In a word – impressive.

Progress has also been made on the CPD front and the Optometry Board of Australia has already approved the academy’s first course, Advanced Ophthalmic Optics 1 (AOO1), for 36 CPD points. However, applications for CPD accreditation for the other courses are still pending.

Academy of Advanced Ophthalmic Optics (AAOO)
Academy of Advanced Ophthalmic Optics (AAOO)

AOO1 has a series of compulsory seminars followed by an assessment that must be completed successfully before any CPD points are allocated.

Other courses already on offer include AOO2, Lens Design, Problem Solving in Practice, and a series of Foundation Courses to build on the dispenser education provided by existing organisations. Foundation courses include: Edging and Fitting, and Functional Dispensing, and seminars are to limited to groups of 12 practitioners.

The structure of a course will deliver more than 20 hours of online material, five hours of online discussion (with course moderators), 12 hours of face-to-face delivery, more than 10 case studies, and access to student discussions and interaction.

Using conference attendance as a measure, the AAOO believes its course fees offer “exceptional value”.

Mentoring is on a pay-per-week basis, with a sliding scale depending on the duration of the undertaking. To put fees further into perspective, the AAOO’s Prospectus provides a simple calculation of the likely cost of just one PPL remake – a figure approximately half that of one of their courses.

The first intake of students for AOO1 opened at the end of March and the seminar and assessment components of that course are scheduled for the beginning of June.

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