Why online education can’t fully replace in person events.
COVID has taught us a lot. As we reel from the COVID hangover some of us are still spinning, what are some of the reflections and conclusions that we can make? Far be it my place to try to cover them all in a short blog post, that would be impossible and naive since it has had such far-reaching implications into every aspect of our lives.
I wanted to reflect on how it has affected how we absorb education. It is known by all that as a result of the pandemic courses and conferences were cancelled and some postponed again and again, while others moved online. I can speak for myself that when we were held back from going into our offices to practice our much-loved profession of dentistry. I, for one, nose-dived into the online education explosion. Endless online webinars became my new job. The sudden democratization of education and sense of community sharing was great. I got stuck in, possibly to expand my knowledge or just as likely to cling onto the small, concrete, achievable tasks when the uncertainty of the unfolding situation left too much unpredictability for my A-type personality to handle.
Prior to the pandemic and during, I have been a self-described course junky, both online and in-person events. There has been undoubtedly a shift to more online education since the pandemic. How does one feel after an online course versus the in-person experience? The intention behind the booking of an in-person course, time away from the office and the act of travel all serve in some way to elevate the in-person experience and the re-energization on that first day back in practice. As I recall one of my first overseas courses in Madrid, I remember coming back to practice fired up and so excited to implement what I had learned. Looking back, what is also interesting is how the information came back to me again and again for years. It was as though my subconscious had stored nuggets of the course that it decided to release when it felt it was appropriate.
This does not discount the benefit of online education. I can vouch for how an online rubber dam course transformed my practice (Thank you, Dr. Calin Pop). I was already rubber dam addicted, but it quite simply made the process enjoyable, fast, and no longer something that required significant budgeting in my appointment schedule. Now that's a serious ROI and $99 well spent.
As we enter the new age of education, we will likely see more remote teaching more “google glasses”, more home/in-office phantom heads setups, and even more webinars. This can not be a bad thing and is only congruent with a world that is more online and more digitally connected than physical. That said, I think we should not lose touch with the essence of our humanity that needs human interaction. The lasting impact in-person courses leave on our practice extends beyond the course content, but also in the connection to our dental community outside our immediate teams. In the same way, watching stand-up on Netflix won’t compare to the shared experience of a comedy club. Our online and digital remote education space is here to stay, and it's a good thing. Regardless, I know I will still be carving out time to get those in-person courses done every year.