Effective Learning in Virtual Conferences: The Application of Five Principles of Learning

J Eur CME. 2022 Jan 10;11(1):2019435. doi: 10.1080/21614083.2021.2019435. eCollection 2022.


In this article, we examine the adaptation of learning among scientists and healthcare professionals in conferences and symposia from face-to-face to fully virtual meetings accelerated in the last years. Advantages and limitations for both settings have been described in different research studies but the effectiveness of learning can be reflected similarly by applying five fundamental principles of learning, which are based on empirical research in cognitive psychology. From a practical context, we compared the individual learning outcomes from two satellite symposia conducted face-to-face in 2019 and virtually in 2021 at the European Congress of Urology, EAU. Although both conference formats were almost identical, the five principles of learning were applied in both symposia. There were also some differences due to adaptation to online conferences, and our findings suggest that the virtual conference was perceived as significantly more effective than the face-to-face conference on all five criteria, and digital learning is a valid alternative to face-to-face conferences. What still needs to be better understood and analysed is the informal learning that is taking place during conferences, but suggesting an active design of any digital event by combining "technical literacy· with "learning literacy" will enable us to better analyse and study the impact of learning using the five learning principles in the design of other events in the future.

Keywords: COVID-19; Virtual meetings; online conferences; principles of learning; satellite symposia.

Grants and funding

The satellite educational programs were funded by Janssen Cilag Pharma GmbH. No honoraria were given for this publication but was based on an academic/industry collaboration.