Creating Virtual Continuing Education Events
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Whether you are considering moving a face-to-face (F2F) event to a virtual format or you regularly create virtual continuing education (CE) events, engagement is a critical component that drives the success of an event and the potential for learning.
Engagement is one of the most pivotal non-cognitive contributing variables in determining learner success. Regardless of whether you are creating an asynchronous (on-demand) event or synchronous (live) event, the following strategies and associated tech resources will help you create effective educational events that maximize learner engagement.
We’ve all heard of the familiar “death by PowerPoint” where a presentation is filled with bullet points and short statements, supported by a speaker simply reading from the screen. Meaningful interactions attract a learner’s attention and interest and should include a cognitive effort. This involves more than creating a simple drag-and-drop. Here are a couple of practical examples to consider:
- Just-In-Time Polling - These are perfect to use for synchronous virtual events, as participants can respond to a real-time survey and see immediate results posted onscreen. Check out free resources like Mentimeter or Slidio.
- Application Questions - Use the same technology to ask application, contextual or conceptual questions (rather than a knowledge check question). Insert such questions throughout the event/presentation rather than at the end.
Simplicity is best. Sometimes, in an effort to create “engaging presentations,” presenters will throw in random animations or images and sometimes the template seems to shift entirely. This can actually increase extraneous cognitive load on the learner, distracting them from the content you are trying to deliver. A couple of key concepts will help with this issue:
- Consistent Design - If you find a template (on PowerPoint, keynote, etc.), stick to it consistently throughout the presentation. Keep design simple and look to pare down the use of any elements. Maintain consistent font (differentiating title and body) and color changes (contrasting colors work best for accessibility).
- “A picture is worth 1,000 words” - Whenever possible, only use images. People tend to remember visual cues rather than text on a page.
The presentation and organization of content and ideas plays a critical part in attracting participant attention and fostering retention. Try not to think of your CE event as an “information dump” but more focused on “how can I get people to think about this differently?” Rather than taking the typical content structure of Intro - Objectives - Information - Assessment, try engaging participants in the very beginning. This might look more like Question - Problem Identification - Strategies for Resolution. Here are two practical strategies:
- Case Study and/or Problem to Solve - In some cases, it makes sense to jump right to a practical example that demonstrates the importance of the skills/knowledge you are seeking to develop in participants. Rather than starting with an introductory overview, lead with a question to answer or a problem to solve. Return to the case study or problem throughout the CE event.
- Assess as You Go - Insert questions (try using one of the polling tech resources above) throughout the presentation/event rather than waiting to assess at the end. This will keep participants engaged and thinking throughout the event. *Tip: If you do this, be sure to let your participants know at the beginning of the event so they are actively participating and can be most successful.