Learning to Learn Online

In September 2020, with the help of an enthusiastic group of PA faculty facilitators, PAEA successfully launched a new virtual workshop series with more than 200 attendees. Not only are many PA educators experiencing teaching online for the first time, but they are also participating in virtual professional development opportunities and learning online themselves.

As many of you prepare to attend our virtual 2020 PAEA Education Forum, we asked some of our faculty workshop participants to share their best practices and tips for learning online.

Tip 1:  Familiarize yourself with the technology.

Know how to log in and access and navigate the system, including how to mute and unmute yourself. Andrew M. Draper, PharmD, MSA, from the University of Utah, encourages all faculty to allow ample time to get comfortable with the technology. “You must have a certain degree of self-confidence that you can navigate the technology and realize how it really can help you do more than you could before,” said Draper.

Tip 2:  Prepare your environment. 

Turn off your email, cell phone notifications, and anything else that would pull your attention away. If you have a private office, create a “Learning in Progress” sign for your door to indicate that you are busy except for emergencies. If you don’t have a private office, find a quiet spot and wear headphones, as needed. 

Angela Conrad, MPA, PA-C, from Eastern Virginia Medical School, said, “I have been in workshops when I was distracted and unfocused. This time I was intentional about my space and gathering the things I needed (pen, paper, printed handouts, water, etc.), which allowed me to focus better. When I wasn’t prepared, I was easily distracted to focus on other things.”

Tip 3:  Participate in virtual activities.

For many, their favorite parts of the Forum and workshops are the opportunities to have table conversations, get-togethers in the hallways, and social gatherings. Take advantage of chat and breakout rooms, conversations, activities, and all of the virtual connection opportunities. Remember, you can also continue discussions throughout the year in the Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). PAEA is planning ongoing virtual workshops, additional webinars, program showcases, and other online learning opportunities for 2021.

Tip 4:  Take care of yourself.

When she teaches online, Lauren Gentile, MS, PA-C, from Saint Elizabeth University, advises “to keep things thorough but short … giving your students multiple breaks and keeping virtual lectures as short as possible without compromising the content or learning points.” She explained that, for learners, this helps with engagement. She also recommends that learners make the most of break time: “Be intentional about getting up and moving around — stretch, do chair yoga, or take a quick walk down the hall or to your kitchen or mailbox.”

Tip 5:  Respect your schedule.

For the Fall Workshops, block out time on your calendar to arrive early and be ready to participate fully from the beginning until the end of the virtual session. For the Education Forum, plan your schedule in advance. Make the most of your week but know that you don’t have to attend every single session. Allow time for networking, connecting, and following up on resources and ideas shared during the sessions you do attend. Also, be sure to check out the e-posters and visit the exhibitors. Please note: On-demand content will be available for registered Education Forum participants through January 1, 2021.  

Have more tips to share? We’d love to hear them. Contact us at

PAEA is using Zoom for the Fall Workshops and a virtual conference platform for the Education Forum. All registered attendees will receive an email with access information and everything you need to know in advance. If you have any trouble connecting or have questions, please contact PAEA at