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Columns: ACSM Certification

Calling All Members!

An ACSM Education Department Update, What to Expect and How to Manage Virtual Programming

Gallo, Paul M. Ed.D., FACSM, ACSM-EP, ACSM-CEP, ACSM-GEI; Melnyk, Jason Ph.D.

Author Information
ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: 11/12 2021 - Volume 25 - Issue 6 - p 51-54
doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000714
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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the landscape for continuing education and virtual programming for most professions. Some would argue that virtual programming was a work in progress prepandemic and that COVID-19 accelerated our arrival to this new age of learning. As these new and innovative learning platforms are likely to stay, ACSM, in accordance with its mission (1) and true north statement (2), will continue to develop program content that is cutting edge and meeting the needs of its members.

To do this, ACSM’s Education Department has been tasked with developing and expanding on education that encompasses all ACSM constituents, meets the needs of different job tasks and requirements, and includes accessibility of programming. To lead the way, ACSM has hired Yuri Fieto, Ph.D., MPH, FACSM, ACSM-CEP, as the Education Department’s educational and professional development strategist (see Sidebar).

The purpose of this column is to provide the reader with insight into the future direction of educational and professional development programming and some additional tips on how members can become more engaged with virtual programming.


During an interview with Yuri, he explained that as the education and professional development strategist, he has two initial goals: continue to manage the high-quality education that ACSM currently offers (3) and explore areas of program expansion to build toward the next steps or “ACSM 2.0” as he referred to it. “ACSM’s Education Department understands that COVID-19 has accelerated the delivery of [educational] content through a variety of different virtual formats and has also provided an opportunity to assess what are the best ways to reach our current membership,” Yuri explained. Because ACSM is composed of clinical exercise physiologists, health–fitness professionals, physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals, there needs to be a balance of programming that is all-encompassing and offered in multiple learning formats and platforms.

Because ACSM is composed of clinical exercise physiologists, health–fitness professionals, physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals, there needs to be a balance of programming that is all-encompassing and offered in multiple learning formats and platforms.

To reach the next steps as an organization, programming needs to fit conveniently into a person’s schedule, allow for access on the go, and meet the specific needs of that professional in their work setting, while not becoming overwhelming. To help achieve “ACSM 2.0,” Yuri shared his vision on the continual development of virtual meetings/conferences, expanding programming to the international membership and offering more on-demand continuing education credits (CECs).

Virtual Programming

Yuri explained that in-person meetings might not be a possibility for members who have experienced professional development funding cuts or are unable to afford high travel costs out of pocket. Additionally, he believes that access to speakers and sessions may be limited in person, or a certain level of fear may exist with some attendees who shy away from interacting with different presenters or researchers when in person. Although there is no intention to do away with in-person meetings, Yuri believes that some meetings could benefit from being completely virtual or having a hybrid (both in-person and virtual) component associated with it. “Virtual meetings can offer a higher level of access to speakers with less fear for some attendees, as demonstrated by the live chats that took place during ACSM’s 2021 Virtual International Health & Fitness Summit and Annual Meeting,” he explained. Yuri further stated, “These types of meetings can not only enhance conversations among attendees and presenters, but it also provides a more expansive opportunity for networking and meeting with different experts in the profession.” One should also note that a virtual meeting can allow for greater access to every session on the program due to the ability to replay the lecture at leisure. This thought process is directly supported by ACSM’s True North Statement of 2019, which includes education as a pillar and directly states, “ACSM will provide highest quality and value education when, where, and how stakeholders want it (2).”

On-Demand CECs

When discussing virtual programming, Yuri was asked if there would be any alteration regarding how CECs were assigned. He explained, “CECs can be offered two ways, with one way being the traditional method of a single registration fee and the assignment of a set number of CECs for all attendees.” Realistically, if a person is paying for 30 CECs, it may be difficult to attend all sessions for that one meeting because of session overlap or some presentations may not be of interest to the attendee. As explained by Yuri, a second method is to offer CECs “On Demand,” meaning the attendee will pay a reduced registration fee and then select and purchase the specific virtual content/presentations that they are most interested in or need for their specific job function. This was the method used for ACSM’s 2021 Virtual International Health & Fitness Summit, and it seemed to be successful, according to a postmeeting survey. This survey demonstrated 50% of International Health & Fitness Summit attendees preferred the on-demand option with the other 50% selecting more traditional CEC offerings. The reader should keep in mind that CEC offerings are dependent on program format, individual needs, and personal preference of the attendee. Further data should be collected to help drive an evidence-based decision regarding these options.

International Programming

In addition to virtual programming being more accessible to members, it also can enhance ACSM’s international reach. To take this to the next level, Yuri is interested in providing more content translated into the multiple languages that represent the diversity of ACSM’s current membership. He stated, “This [translated content] would ideally include live-time translations, closed caption, and translated transcripts for all virtual programming.” This type of programming would not only benefit ACSM’s international partners, but it also would benefit ACSM’s members who reside in the United States, whose second language is English. International programming also can meet specific demands associated with the different parts of the world. For instance, educational needs for professional development could vary when comparing exercise professionals and health–fitness markets from Central America as compared with those in Asia. Yuri is calling on ACSM members who are bilingual and interested in helping with this programming to contact him at the information provided in the sidebar of this article.

Sidebar: Meet Yuri Feito

Yuri Feito, Ph.D., MPH, FACSM, ACSM-CEP, is the education and professional development strategist for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and responsible for the educational portfolio of the college. Prior to this role, he spent 11 years as a faculty member and researcher at Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, GA) and Barry University (Miami, FL), achieving the rank of full professor. Dr. Feito has been involved in the fitness and medical industries for more than 20 years, working with a variety of athletes and clinical populations. He obtained a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and has master’s degrees in Movement Science and Public Health. He is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and is certified as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist.

Twitter: @DrFeito

Email: [email protected]


As mentioned previously, a survey indicated that 50% of conference attendees for ACSM’s International Health & Fitness Summit preferred the on-demand approach. Therefore, some amount of virtual programming will likely continue, as this allows for greater access to education. For some, virtual programming may be new to them, and there is the potential for some level of stress in engaging with the large volume of content that can be available in a virtual program. For this reason, some individuals may be seeking effective strategies to help maximize their virtual experience.

When asked what recommendations he would make for a first-time attendee looking to maximize their virtual experience, Yuri said, “It has to work on your terms, making it fit within your schedule. You may not have an hour a day, but maybe you have 20 minutes.” By using this approach, you can plan how to make virtual programming work for you. Below are some tips meeting attendees can consider to maximize engagement with the content, which also may work for in-person meetings.

Plan and Maximize Your Engagement

As an attendee, plan out the sessions you wish to engage in ahead of time while keeping in mind that online programming provides you with the flexibility of accessing content postevent (i.e., replaying recorded sessions) or the ability to engage in live Q&A sessions on a specific day and time. Consider the total hours of content for each meeting and which sessions are most valuable and important to you. Program planners can help an attendee pace the amount of content they are comfortable with each day and make the most of their time. For instance, ACSM’s 2021 Virtual International Health & Fitness Summit had more than 100 hours of content made available over a specified time with sessions organized in specific content tracks with similar topics. Attendees were able to use the online planner and access a session description that could be added to their calendar. Remember, with virtual programming, engagement in sessions can work around your weekly schedule and other commitments. It is also beneficial to connect with colleagues and ask what sessions they are attending and participate in the chat functions of the meeting. These strategies can provide additional networking opportunities or conversations that would take place during an in-person meeting.

Do Not Take Notes, Create Notes

While listening to a session, separate your notes by dividing a piece of paper in half vertically down the middle. On the left-hand side, take notes throughout the session, as you would typically do in any meeting or class leaving the right-hand side blank. At some point after the session, look back at your notes and create your thoughts as you reflect on the content of those notes. These could be additional ideas or thoughts that you had regarding the sessions recommendations, review of other resources that support or contest the session’s information, future research that you may be interested in conducting, or how the information will improve the services you currently provide to your specific clientele. This note-taking strategy allows you to accomplish two things, 1) greater engagement and interaction that may provoke deeper thought and improved memory-recall with the content shared and 2) enhancement of focus on the content without having to try and keep up with your note taking, which can become a distraction while listening to a session (4). One of the reasons for this idea relates to the forgetting curve (4) which is a mathematical formula that explains the rate at which something is forgotten. Factors that impact this include the time between which you retrieve information and this note-taking method is one way in which you can practice engaging with content from meetings to be sure you are utilizing the knowledge you consume.


The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the implementation of virtual programming, which will likely remain as a mainstay for ACSM educational programming and continuing professional education. Through the leadership of Yuri, ACSM’s Education Department will continue to work on the development of virtual programming that will allow for high-quality learning experiences, accessibility, and offer education specific to job requirements. Expansion of international programming will allow for greater access of ACSM’s educational materials and can potentially be tailored to different fitness markets worldwide.

For those members who are currently engaging in virtual programming or interested in beginning, there are some helpful tips that can assist. Build your schedule of must-attend virtual programming and make a realistic attempt at setting goals for those sessions you want to attend. Try the note-taking technique shared in this column during the session and revisit your notes to generate your own thoughts and ideas. Use virtual programming to your advantage regarding replay options and working sessions around your current commitments and appointments in doses that are tolerable for you.

“Education is the connection for all ACSM constituents, whatever our area of expertise or work setting is, this is what brings us together as a membership!” — ACSM Education and Professional Development Strategist Yuri Fieto, Ph.D., MPH, FACSM, ACSM-CEP.


We would like to thank Dr. Yuri Fieto for his contributions to this column.

Feel free to contact Dr. Gallo at [email protected] if you have any questions pertaining to this column.


1. American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM About Us. 2021 [cited 2021 June 17]. Available from:
2. American College of Sports Medicine. Annual Meeting Documents, Strategic Plan, and True North. 2019 [cited 2021 June 17]. Available from:
3. Gallo PM. Recertification tips while staying at home: what every professional needs to know. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2020;24(6):40–2.
4. Murre JM, Dros J. Replication and analysis of Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve. PLoS One. 2015;10(7):e0120644.
Copyright © 2021 by American College of Sports Medicine.