Can You Really Teach Anything Live, Online?

Can You Really Teach Anything Live, Online?

by Kevin Siegel, CTT, COTP Follow us on Twitter View our profile on LinkedIn View our videos on YouTube

I received a call a few days ago from a medical facility. They were interested in sending a few of their doctors to the class. Both potential attendees were brain surgeons (how awesome is that... brain surgeons... I've only played one of those on TV).

The most pressing question my caller had about the class was potential online course content post-class. She wanted to know if there were limits to what can be effectively taught online. My answer: Not much.

Take equine care for instance. You have a need to teach learners how to tack up a horse. If the class was in-person, you could have everyone walk around the horse, handle the tack, even practice putting the tack on the horse. In this instance, teaching horse tack techniques can only be taught onsite, right?


One of our Certified Online Training Professionals needed to teach this very subject to a live, online audience (she had attendees from multiple countries; there was just no way to get them all into the same state, let alone the same facility). 

During class, she delved into a lesson about essential tack items versus non-essential items. You can imagine how this kind of lesson can go... the online trainer pontificates, all the while clicking through one of those death-by-PowerPoint presentations we've all had to endure. Net result: sleeping students, little learning.

Instead, the trainer remembered her COTP training and attempted to engage her class. She displayed an image of a horse in full regalia. But how do you engage a worldwide online audience by simply displaying a picture? She asked the class which tack items in the picture were not essentials. Because most online training platforms allow attendees to draw onscreen, she invited the attendees to use a pen tool and circle their guesses together as a group.  

The actual net result: a high level of learner engagement. In addition, there was laughter when one out-of-control student drew the smiley face on the horse's flank. The bottom line is that learning occurred at a very high level.

Sure there are going to be subjects you simply cannot effectively teach online. But given the fact that you can include video cameras in class, the list is small. Unless you need to physically touch a classmate or student to teach a concept, I submit that you can teach it online.

As for brain surgery, okay you're going to teach the actual surgery online... or are you? In reality, I've been told that this kind of training is happening today (I haven't witnessed it, but I'm confident someone reading this has so please do share your experience). So here's the deal... if you can teach brain surgery live, online... what can't you teach?

What are your thoughts about the limits (or lack of limits) to holding an online class? Please share your comments below or email me directly at I'd love to hear about some of the more challenging live, online subjects you have taught and how you engaged your learners.

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