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Delivering in-person interventions online during the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons learned

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The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated unprecedented programmatic changes in interventions and service settings as in-person activities moved online. Exemplifying this broader pattern, the Substance Use, Prevention, and Education Research (SUPER) project moved two in-person interventions (Botvin Life Skills Training [LST] and Positive Parenting Program [Triple P]) online. The current manuscript outlines lessons learned from this transition to online implementation. Lessons focus on strategies to increase and improve school and participant recruitment, participant attendance and engagement, program implementation fidelity, and data collection. The pandemic impeded recruitment and required intensified efforts (e.g., going door to door, contacting multiple agencies). Further, because maintaining attendance in online programs can be difficult, offering attendance incentives is helpful. In addition, to address participants’ hesitance to engage in online activities, we advise allowing for flexibility in online communication and allowing participants to keep their cameras off and microphones muted if desired, but encouraging them to participate through the chat feature of Zoom. Training implementation staff in online implementation strategies and providing ongoing support by trained professionals is also vital to increasing recruitment and engagement. Finally, although certain features of in-person programs may need to be altered when shifting to an online implementation setting, it is important to ensure these changes do not impact the fidelity of the program. Included suggestions can be used to enhance the online delivery of programs and improve participant outcomes.

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No data were used to write the current manuscript.


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Funding for the project described in the current manuscript came from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

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Authors and Affiliations



CBRE: Wrote the bulk of the manuscript. TCG: Wrote the section on LST school recruitment and heavily edited the manuscript. AML: Added text in multiple sections of the manuscript and heavily edited the manuscript. TW: Added text in multiple sections of the manuscript and heavily edited the manuscript. AS: Added text in multiple sections of the manuscript and heavily edited the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Caroline B. R. Evans.

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Ethical approval

This research was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All research related to this manuscript was performed in accordance with relevant guidelines applicable when human participants are involved.

Informed consent

All adult participants in our study signed an informed consent form. All adolescent participants signed an assent form and their parents/guardians were provided an information sheet and told to contact study personnel if they did not want their child to participate. This passive consent process was approved by the IRB.

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The authors have no conflict of interest to report.

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Evans, C., Goings, T., Murray-Lichtman, A. et al. Delivering in-person interventions online during the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons learned. SN Soc Sci 4, 28 (2024).

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