Getting comfortable with online learning

Written on Jun 25, 2020

By Nicole Fracasso, OSCPA communications intern 

When COVID-19 entered Ohio, businesses were forced to either shut down completely or transition into a fully remote office. Some organizations and individuals were also tasked with turning conferences with hundreds of registrants into an online learning event. 

Presenters and attendees alike not only had to adapt to the technology, but also a new normal for interacting with others virtually. From a presenting perspective, it’s important to find a way to maintain a connection with the audience, said Chris Ortega, director of finance at Emarsys. 

For example, Ortega always has his camera on and asks questions to keep the audience engaged and informed. 


"You still want to find that connection to people,” Ortega said.

One way to increase online engagement is by hosting smaller individualized sessions. For instance, Zoom offers “breakout rooms,” where the audience can split into smaller groups to discuss subjects and then return to the larger group. 

Ortega also recommends connecting with attendees after the event through a virtual happy hour. 

“I think finding that way to connect is difficult depending on size,” he said. “I was in a session with 250 attendees and afterwards there were about 50 who stayed online.” 

While the number is significantly lower, a lot of people find it easier to speak up on camera in smaller groups. 

From an attendee perspective, Janet Cadena, CPA, field auditor for The Ohio Department of Commerce Unclaimed Funds emphasizes the importance of being prepared. 

“Set aside a good location where you can do your recording,” she said. “So, you have good lighting, no distractions and try to test out all your technology before you get to the meeting.” 

While you can’t always foresee technological issues that may occur regardless of if you test everything, you can limit the possibility of one happening if you go into it prepared, Cadena said. 

In addition, Robert Paul, CPA, treasurer for the city of Madeira, says it takes time to adapt. 

“Be patient,” he said. “It’s not anything that I did prior to the time frame and so it’s something that I had to adapt to and in doing it, I ended up finding that I preferred it.” 

All in all, regardless of which platform you’re using, interacting with others is essential for online learning. 

“Keep people connected,” he said. “Keep the content fresh, keep it interactive and keep people engaged.”


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