Since March 2020, Box Cars has conducted hundreds of virtual, live on-demand workshops for teachers and families throughout North America. It was a pivot we first made with trepidation, but then we grew to embrace this amazing technology. It has allowed us to connect with many more teachers, districts, and families than we would have ever been able to in person, and we’ve come to realize there are numerous benefits of virtual workshops for teachers.
When Covid changed the world, we changed with it, and we continue to provide hands-on math and literacy game-focused workshops and have remained a leader in the educational consulting world.
More importantly, the lessons we learned carry over into our Post Covid world. There are so many benefits of virtual workshops for teachers, as long as they remain engaging and hands-on.
01. Save Money
Most districts have indicated that switching to virtual format saved them thousands of dollars in expenses. This includes the travel costs of bringing teachers together and bringing in speakers. These savings were then reallocated into supporting teachers with purchasing resources for immediate use in their classrooms.
Due to these savings, schools were able to pre-purchase classroom kits that teachers used in the online workshop. The teachers could use these kits right away in their programs and didn’t have to wait for additional funding.
Administrators also indicated the follow through was seen first hand. If there was no budget for pre-purchase of materials, we and the school made sure that each teacher still participated by asking them to bring a deck of cards and regular dice. We were able to engage teachers, and provide 100’s of games and strategies that they could implement with these easy to find manipulatives.
These notable cost savings are one of the main benefits of virtual workshops for teachers, and it’s the piece of feedback we most often receive.
02. Remote Locations Can Now Participate in Workshops
Remote schools often have a challenging time bringing in speakers for workshops and professional development days. Some districts in Northern Canada are only accessible at certain times of the year, while others require long travel times.
However, with our virtual workshops, many remote districts are now able to participate in some great professional development that otherwise might not have been possible. Remote districts often consist of one or two schools and can’t afford to contract a consultant with all the associated travel expenses. With virtual, we can literally ‘zoom’ in anywhere at any time and the only costs were our professional speaking fees.
My favorite example of this was one day we put together an early 3:00 a.m. our time zone workshop for Doha Qatar (4:00 pm their time), and we followed that up with a workshop in Chicago at 2:00 pm our time. Crazy when you really think about it, but that is truly one of the great benefits of virtual workshops for teachers.
03. Virtual Workshops are More Flexible
Virtual workshops permit far more flexibility than traditional, in-person workshops. While in-person ones must be planned months in advance to accommodate travel preparation, virtual workshops can be booked at the last minute as long as there’s availability in our calendar.
As the above example indicates, we can build and contract workshops at any time, any place, as long as we have a day or two of preparation. What this meant for schools, and for us, is that we can fill in any quick decisions to have an extra professional development event. No flights or hotels need to be booked; we simply “arrive” and get the job done for the school.
This flexibility also helps us build a series of workshops for schools/districts. For example, we can put together 4 workshops over 4 months, focusing on different concepts each time. But we’d only charge our professional speaking fees, not 4 separate travel expenses.
We can afford to virtually “travel” really far away for an hour. Whereas if we were traveling by car or plane, it would just not be feasible for a school or district to afford it. Districts that have booked multiple sessions over the course of the school year indicate that they enjoyed having follow up sessions focused on different topics. It keeps them eager and excited for new content to help them continue to cover their curriculum.
04. You Don’t Have to Worry About Substitute Teacher Coverage
Across North America, there is a substitute teacher shortage, meaning there aren’t enough substitutes to cover teachers that need to be away from school to attend professional development.
Yet, with the flexibility of scheduling virtual workshops, we can host sessions immediately after school. Teachers are able to attend for quick 60 – 90 minute sessions, and still get home in time for family commitments.
We also contract several “muffins and math” sessions and do them early in the morning before school starts. Not having to worry about finding coverage is one of the biggest benefits of virtual workshops for teachers.
05. Virtual Workshops are More Convenient
Many districts in both the US and Canada are not only remote in setting, but also geographically very spread out. Virtual workshops solved the problem of having teachers drive great distances to attend professional development at a central location.
I remember one district in particular that offered after school sessions. They had 10 – 20 teachers attend these in person. Many didn’t want to drive the remote highways, especially during our winters and in the dark at night. When we offered virtual during Covid, their registrations doubled! Their family literacy night went from 30 families to 175 families!
In addition, the savings for reimbursing travel costs was huge. For some districts (like the Northwest Territories in Canada) travel and hotel costs for centralized professional development is extremely costly.
For one district in Yukon, we were able to supply 65,000 worth of resources directly into the classrooms from the savings. Teachers ‘zoomed’ in, used the resources during the webinars, and could then immediately implement them into their classrooms.
06. Virtual Workshops are More Eco-Friendly
Virtual workshops are also more environmentally friendly. Teachers don’t have to use gas to get to and from their central locations, while the speakers and consultants no longer have to use air or land travel to get to their destination.
Additionally, we use less paper! We haven’t printed out a handout in two and a half years. This saved many trees and thousands of dollars. Teachers are always provided with a more extensive online PDF handout, and they can access it over and over again. They don’t have to worry about losing it, and they don’t have to worry about it cluttering their desks.
07. You’ll Have Access to Recorded Workshops
Many districts have asked us to record their webinar, so it can be used for follow-up training for new staff that come to the school or for teachers unable to attend the live session.
This allows teachers and districts to continuously receive value from one session. Administrators have told us how much they appreciated these follow up recordings.
Book Your Virtual Workshop!
You can’t beat these benefits of virtual workshops for teachers! Webinars look a little bit different then they did back in 2020, where teachers were ‘zooming’ in from home and participating all alone, along with all the other screens.
Now when we book a live webinar, teachers are again together, actively working side by side in a large group. We are on one screen in a large room where the teachers are assembled, zooming in. But it feels like we are really there in person!