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Explain Pain Online – instructor reflections, and a look into the future

By Noigroup HQ Education for all 20 Aug 2020

And just like that NOI was offering Explain Pain Online. It started in Australia, and was quickly embraced in the US, UK, Europe and India. We were all feeling our way forward with the initial courses, but the participants were patient and understanding as we all learned together. In the past four months we’ve had over 20 courses and about 400 participants from all over the globe.

Feedback from course participants has been overwhelmingly positive with a few key themes emerging;

I wasn’t sure about the online format, but it felt just like a face-to-face course

I’ve always wanted to do Explain Pain, but it never came to a city near me, thank you for running it online so that I could finally attend

The online format gave me immediate tips on how I could deliver pain education to my patients online.


We also asked our amazing, adaptable and agile instructors about their experience of teaching Explain Pain online. While it is clear that they are all missing the personal interaction that is such a special part of NOI courses – including the inspiring and invigorating chats that occur outside the ‘classroom’ (often with beverage in hand) – there have emerged numerous benefits, insights and reflections, and we’ve shared these below.

Tim Beames, United Kingdom

This is the biggest learning curve that I’ve gone through in the last 10 years. It’s so different from glancing around a room and getting a sense of where my energy should be spent or who needs a little extra assistance or even where I should stand to change the focus.

On the flip side, the ability to keep everything fresh and individualised is fantastic. We’ve put together some incredible resources from each course – chat document, articles and more. On the courses I’ve run so far there’s been an incredible mix of people – professionals from different backgrounds, people with lived experiences of pain, and a wide spread of geographical locations  – and time differences!

In summary, Explain Pain online offers flexibility for learners, an opportunity to immerse yourself in and reflect on what pain truly is for you. It connects people globally, professionals and people interested in and/or living with pain. I think this is going to generate the greatest shift in pain education and understanding. We have the chance to influence where this goes. Truly exciting – plus, you can do it with or without your pants on!

Ben Boyd, United States

I have enjoyed the flexibility of being able to break up the class content into multiple sessions over multiple days or weeks. This has allowed people to explore concepts more deeply between sessions and the opportunity to apply ideas to patient care and come back to talk about their experiences after trying things out.

I have heard from multiple people that the online format has allowed them to attend when travel, location, cost, time away from work or family was a barrier to attending a face-to-face class in the past. As a teacher, I quite enjoy the interactions with people and seeing their faces when presenting and the conversations that are sparked by like-minded people exploring pain science together.  Since this is in a virtual format, it has been helpful for me to encourage people having their cameras on as much as is possible and to chime in using the audio as well as the chat feature.  It helps to create a sense of togetherness even when physically apart.

I have also enjoyed the conversations that happen “on the side” by checking in with people when they log in early or staying a bit after to chat with those that have questions or want to dive deeper on a topic.  It has helped to replicate the type of side conversations that can happen when we are all physically together in the same location.  I am pleased that this online format allows for enough flexibility to have these types of experiences that might also happen in a face-to-face course.

Prakkash Sharoff, India

I do miss the face-to-face course however I cannot deny the advantages of the online mode.


  1. No travel time for participants and instructors and no requirement for travel and travel related expenses.
  2. Comfort of learning at home sitting/lying down, with a cup of tea/coffee
  3. Break out sessions allow you to engage easily in group discussions.
  4. You don’t have to be in the same city/country where the course is happening. I had people from different cities and countries attend at the same time.
  5. Flexibility in timings is the biggest advantage. People can finish the day’s work and still make it to the course.

Bart van Buchem, Netherlands

For me it has been an opportunity to evaluate the whole course and rethink some of the material. I have found its strengths again and new ways to add value to the course by introducing breakout rooms, patients who can ‘call in’ to the course, using The Protectometer online, easily sharing articles, slides and other documents.

Interrupting to ask a question is different compared to face-to-face, but the typed chat feature gave some surprising straight feedback. Participants engaged very well by using the chat function  and allowed me to take questions and clarify while teaching without interruption.

I felt safe, engaged and surprised by the quality. Although it took a big adaptation, the results are really encouraging. As we are just starting to go online and a huge world is in front of us to improve, use new technology and making Explain Pain even a better experience for the participants. And I have to admit, my own joy in teaching this comprehensive course!

Luke Bongiorno, United States

Teaching online has provided a really unique opportunity to engage a variety of health professionals with a diverse section of clinicians both geographically and inter-disciplinary. Many who have never had the opportunity to attend a live course, can now participate with greater convenience and in a comfortable environment.

I have been pleasantly surprised with the effectiveness of the online format, and the small breakout sessions allow in depth discussions which can be shared with the whole group, tying in well the science and providing tools that can be used immediately in the  clinic. In a time when healthcare education and active engagement is more relevant than ever, I have found the online platform and interactive learning to be an excellent way of stimulating clinicians (and myself as an instructor) to further spread the Explain Pain message.

I’m excited to continue to develop and connect with other like-minded clinicians in a cohesive way that can help lead to a greater understanding of pain & lead to effective change.

Tim Cocks, Australia

I was sceptical at first, I didn’t think the feel of an online course could be anywhere near close to that of face-to-face teaching. But I’ve been proved pleasantly wrong on this. The most important reflection for me has been to listen to the participants, and make changes based on their feedback. The high frequency of courses have allowed a constant iteration of delivery, feedback, and improvement, and I think that the online courses that we are delivering now provide an educational experience equal to, if not better than, what we have delivered in face-to-face settings. I’m certain that the future will hold a combination of online and face-to-face delivery, and I think there is an exciting space for hybrid courses, ‘flipped classrooms’ and new courses that could never be delivered in a face-to-face mode.

Perhaps the best thing that I can say about the online courses is that very often now as I teach, the camera and the screen seem to slip away and I completely forget that I am not in the same room with the happy smiling health professionals taking the course.


Take an online course

Jump on the courses page of our website and pick an online course that works for you and your time zone. But be quick, the smaller class sizes fill quickly and many courses are already sold out.

Hope to see you online soon…

–NOI Group


Explain Pain Online – what is it and how does it differ from face to face?

It’s the same course, the same material, the same workbook and the same teacher presenting live.

With the online courses we are keeping the class sizes small, there is loads of practical work and time for questions and discussion. The ‘breakout rooms’ – smaller Zoom calls within the Zoom meeting – are small groups of 2-5 participants that allow easy discussion and undertaking of practical exercises. The breakout sessions are consistently one of the favourite parts of the course.

We always make sure that we build in regular breaks to avoid Zoom fatigue, but the ability to easily switch off your camera and audio also allow you to take us with you anywhere so you never miss a thing! (Just make sure that you do turn your camera and microphone off if you need to.)

Things people have told us they prefer about online courses

  • The course is a lot more efficient – no travel time or expenses
  • Learning at home is comfortable and flexible
  • Sharing resources (images, links, papers) between participants and the instructor is really easy and immediate
  • No bad seats stuck behind a column!!

Related ‘jams

Patient-centred online consultation

Bull markets and pain metaphors



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