Virtual Programming Reboot

How to fall in love with at-home entertainment and online learning again

At the beginning of the pandemic, most of us were singing the praises of virtual programming. With enthusiasm and optimism, we leaped at this novel way to stay connected to friends and family, attend events, host parties, and continue going to school and work.

As the pandemic wore on and the “big bear hug” around virtual programming slackened, there was still no denying that virtual programming was a game changer. It is still remarkably convenient; still connects us to people and opportunities otherwise unreachable; still can be less expensive (no commute); and, still brings limitless, quality resources to online, on site, or hybrid education. In fact, there is so much smart, scintillating, and captivating content online, maybe it’s not the programming that lacks pizzazz. Maybe we need to rethink the way we “do virtual.” With that in mind, here are some ideas on how to use your space, your pace, and your schedule to bring the joy back to virtual programming:

Live Means Live!

“While online viewing isn’t nearly the same as standing with a crowd, a live performance is still live; you get just one chance to see it,” said Melanie Weir, Associate Director of Education & Community Engagement at LBC. To keep the magic alive, Weir advises not to treat the experience the same as watching a movie on your laptop. If you have a Smart TV, call dibs on it for the performance. Designate the room as your theater, darken it a little, and arrange the seats to give standing and dancing a chance – just like in the theater. If it’s date night, dress like it. If it’s family night, have refreshments and popcorn.

Most important, especially when viewing with children, move distractions like other electronic devices, pets, and toys out of sight, just as they would be if you were in the theater. Often a chat space is available. Use it to share the excitement with fellow fans. Clap, dance, and sing along.

On-demand Anytime

One of the great advantages of virtual programming is the availability of vast stores of on-demand entertainment and educational content. LBC donors and sponsors make it possible for many of the more than 40 virtual programs we hosted throughout the pandemic to be available on demand. Much like the Statue of Liberty to New Yorkers, however, when something is always available, it’s easy to keep putting it off.

One way to get to all that content on your list is to make an appointment with yourself – or your family. Then keep the appointment. Tuesday lunch-time, pick a Luther Local and stage your own private tabletop concert. For Sunday afternoons when the kids get restless, gather them around one of LBC’s 196 Let’s Be Creative activities; there’s enough there to keep them busy for years of Sundays!

“Learning up”

While we can all agree it’s not the only way to learn, virtual programming can enrich almost any type of learning experience. If your child is struggling with online learning, experts offer valuable advice to “learn up” by making it more delightful and effective – for you and the student.

  • Work in short spurts – Without human interaction, online learning can be discouraging. Set a time limit, and, when the alarm goes off, step away. “Assign” a brief break for exercise, a snack, or an activity that doesn’t involve a screen.
  • Make it fun – It may take a little extra time, but often a quick search online can reveal creative and fun ways to supplement learning. LBC’s Family Fun Series, for example, often offers new ways to engage in children’s literature. Its Fiesta de Indepencia video invites students to participate in a social studies celebration: the culture of Latin American music.

It’s not just the kids who were directed to virtual classrooms during the pandemic. For the many older students and professionals who found themselves adjusting to online learning, virtual programming can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on their circumstances. Here are some ways to juice it up:

  • Buddy up – Find a buddy and keep each other on track and accountable.
  • Use the tools – Make the most of engagement tools offered with online classes. Don’t skip discussion groups or chat sessions; they provide the only connection you might have to fresh perspectives, a variety of voices, and creative ideas that can make the content meaningful.

If you find yourself feeling “meh” about the chance to view online live entertainment or on-line learning – no matter how “blockbuster” they sound – it’s time for a reboot. Because it is possible to fall in love with virtual programming again.

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