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I have observed the current pandemic both in fear and awe. As an Army Reserves medical officer completing a PhD in medical education, it is both hard to think past the devastating effects of COVID-19 but also accept the fate of new possibilities. Much of my clinical and educational work is now increasingly remote, including pastoral support, outpatient clinics and multidisciplinary team meetings. As a Reservist, my unit has moved entirely to remote training; our weekly training nights and weekend training now occurs on a virtual platform. I recently attended the full-day Military Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Conference as a remote attendee.
My first experience of using remote conferencing came a few years ago when running a 1-day clinical research methodology conference. As an internationally developed methodology, worldwide delegates were keen to attend. As a novice, I set up a remote element by facing my laptop towards the speaker, allowing virtual attendees to view the presentations and ask questions along with our in-house audience. Despite the inclusivity, sound issues distracted from the conference content.
Remote conferences have evolved considerably, partly fuelled by the pandemic. As a clinician, this allows attendance at events I could not usually attend due to extra days’ leave when factoring in travel. There are things I miss about attending face-to-face sessions; networking with old and new colleagues is a vast, lost, advantage for which we can never fully compensate, despite best attempts.
For military remote training co-ordinators, prior preparation is critical, as is the consideration of the classification of the content to be delivered. Within the UK, only OFFICIAL information may be shared across all unencrypted remote platforms. Therefore, further materials should be available via alternative platforms if needed.
Moderation of remote events is difficult and requires the work of multiple individuals. Ideally, the person monitoring the chat and questions should not be the person presenting. For more significant events, a third person should oversee admissions and technical issues. Attendees may join via computer, tablet or phone. Therefore, presenters should be mindful of this when considering the amount of text on their slides. Face-to-face lectures should be reviewed, and their content and format adapted for online delivery as appropriate.
Participant concentration is similar via remote platforms and face-to-face learning.1 However, learners are less productive and learning takes longer via remote platforms.2 3 Therefore, regular breaks and encouraging movement between sessions is vital to promote physical and mental well-being. With consideration of these factors, remote training may be beneficial for all.
Deciding whether events should be delivered face-to-face or virtually will be a challenge post-COVID; my deliberations of coffee on my sofa versus a human handshake and sponsored freebies will trail behind what best suits the speakers and attendees overall. A combination of virtual and face-to-face events may allow maximum attendance of delegates that may not usually attend: whether due to deployment, travel or overseas allies.
Contributors The sole author, AMC, designed and wrote the letter. The letter was reviewed by the unit commanding officer and defence media prior to submission.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
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