What are the Pros and Cons of Online CPE? Join us on Sept. 12 to Find Out!

Written by David Fleenor, ACPE Certified Educator

Filed under: News

I remember what felt like a clandestine meeting of ACPE educators about 10 years ago to discuss online CPE. A group of us who were offering online CPE or interested in doing so had found each other and decided it could be helpful to meet and share what we had been learning. Offering online CPE was very new and controversial at that time. The prevailing concern was a fear about how authenticity and relationality could be lost or impeded when CPE groups don’t meet face to face. Around the same time, the journal Reflective Practice dedicated an entire issue to the theme of “Formation and Supervision in a Digital Age” with thoughtful contributions from ACPE colleagues exploring the pros and cons. Then, of course, in 2020, we were all hit with a pandemic that shut down much of the US, sending us scrambling to figure out if and how to continue offering CPE. The majority of ACPE educators abruptly shifted online, and in that process, we learned a lot. How do I know that?

Several colleagues came together during that tumultuous time, convinced that we needed to better understand how our ACPE colleagues were pivoting to online CPE during the pandemic. Led by Csaba Szilagyi and funded by a generous grant from the Foundation for ACPE, we designed a mixed-methods survey and distributed it to our ACPE colleagues, which resulted in two publications.

Our first publication described how we shifted our CPE programming in response to the pandemic. A key finding was that before the pandemic 82% of respondents delivered CPE entirely in person, but after the onset of the pandemic, only 13% did. 66% of respondents reported shifting their CPE programs either significantly (> 50%) or fully (100%) online. Many of our respondents had never offered online CPE, which meant many were learning how to do it on the fly.

In our second publication, we explored CPE educators’ varied and complex perspectives regarding the sudden pivot to online CPE and what they had learned, including a wide range of positive, challenging, and mixed experiences. Perhaps the most surprising finding was how confident CPE educators were that students could achieve equivalent learning outcomes online as in person. We learned that CPE educators felt fairly confident in developing a student/educator alliance online, expressing and receiving empathy, helping students achieve ACPE learning outcomes, and evaluating students' progress toward meeting CPE learning outcomes.

There is much more to report and discuss than we have room for in this article. To that end, we are offering a webinar in partnership with the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab and the ACPE Curriculum Committee to translate our findings to practice and to put them in context with three CPE educators with significant experience offering online CPE. This webinar will feature Carolyn Barksdale, Veronica Martinez-Gallegos, and Sarah Knoll Sweeney. We will explore how these educators began supervising online CPE, their initial internal and external resistances, the pros and cons of online CPE from their perspectives, and what curriculum they use both in person and online. We will also discuss the diversity, equity, and inclusion issue of how to make CPE more accessible.  

Please join us for an upcoming discussion on September 12 at 2:00 pm ET. Register at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/4016589506235/WN_2YqemPgpQXSoDlinE5Vvcg.