Have you noticed lately that people are using the words “virtual,” “online” and “remote” interchangeably? I’ve been asked to do a virtual keynote and people talk about classes converting to online learning when what they really mean is content delivered remotely.


“Virtual” means not real – it’s the avatar and fantasy world that is created in games and with graphics – virtual reality. “Online” has different connotations as well, where something is available via the web at any time you want to access it – I could record a webinar and have it online for years. But what most people want is remote work where the facilitator delivers live content via technology – whether that be a keynote, meeting or class.

I think the distinction in language is important because it shapes the expectations for the experience, the audience engagement and the pricing. If students see themselves enrolled in an online class, they expect it to cost less than live instruction and I suspect they put less effort into it. On the other hand, a class delivered remotely – where all are present at the same time and the teacher can interact with everyone delivers an experience much closer to in-person and requires as much (if not more) preparation by the instructor. The same is true of meetings: a virtual meeting doesn’t conjure up the same expectations for preparation and participation as framing the use of Zoom as a live meeting delivered remotely.

Content that is created for use in a synchronous setting – whether delivered live or remotely – isn’t virtual. It’s real and has the potential to generate great discussions, ideas and additional content when done well.

Language matters. Let’s leave the virtual environment to the gamers and avatars and focus our energy on creating the best content we can, even if we have to deliver it from afar.

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