DEVILS LAKE-While Molly Nienhuis was working with Parkinson's Disease patients at the local YMCA, she told a coworker she had learned from a program that was certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

"She said, 'Oh, then you're the best of the best!'" Nienhuis said.

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She's going into UND's School of Medicine and Health Sciences for physical therapy now, but Nienhuis has already taken many of the personal training courses at Lake Region State College. The school continues to be the only two-year school in the nation that offers a solely online personal trainer program accredited by the CAAHEP.

The program opened in 2011 with only three students and was accredited by May 2012. It can be taken completely online or partially on campus, depending on what's convenient for a student.

Now with many successful graduates, program coordinator Tammy Riggin is excited for the future and wants to push for an emphasis on the psychology of motivation and group fitness training.

"Before, personal training used to just be in a gym, but that's changing as well," she said. "A person can work as a trainer in a corporation or be an online wellness coach or work in the medical field."

Riggin said technology allows the program to be offered entirely online easily. For example, students learning about skinfold measurements can show what they've learned using photos and video.

Riggin also has students shoot video showing how they would inform clients about their body fat percentage they obtained through the skinfold measurement.

"It's not just how to do it right and find the numbers, it's about how you communicate with the client," she said.

Haley Hoffner got involved in the personal trainer program at LRSC just because she had always been active and went to the gym regularly.

"But going through the program, it made me realize that this is what I want to do and seeing people improve and change and become happier about themselves, it's definitely worth it," she said.

Hoffner is currently continuing her education in Mankato, Minn., but previously worked at Mercy Therapy and Fitness in Devils Lake using what she learned through the classes she took on campus and online.

"Online (classes) definitely require a little more motivation, but it's also convenient to people who are say, single parents, or busy in general and they're just looking to further their education," she said.

Director for the Center for Distance Education and Outreach Dan Driessen was the administrator involved in getting the program offered online. He said the "dynamic" program is particularly strong because it incorporates nutrition education and the CAAHEP officials who made the accreditation site visit were impressed.

"We did this right and we're really, really proud of this program," Driessen said.