Introduction: The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic forced a rapid transition of in-class residency conferences to online residency conferences; little is known about learners' perceptions of this new didactic environment. Understanding learners' perceptions of virtual classrooms can help inform current and future best practices for online, synchronous, graduate medical education.
Methods: We surveyed emergency medicine and internal medicine residency programs at a large urban academic medical center about their perceptions of synchronous online residency conferences.
Results: Residents reported a preference for in-class interactions with peers (85%) and lecturers (80%), with 62% reporting decreased levels of engagement with lecturers during online conferences. Residents reported performing nearly twice as many non-conference-related activities (eg, email, exercise) during online conferences vs in-class conferences. Residents felt that the following methods improved engagement during online conferences: lecturers answering chat questions; small group sessions; and gamification of lectures.
Conclusion: Synchronous online residency conferences were associated with decreased engagement and attention by learners. Simple methods to increase interactivity may help improve the online classroom experience and cultivate novel teaching environments that better support current learning styles.