Meetings have been replaced by Zoom. Chatting in the kitchen has been replaced by Slack or Microsoft Teams channels. After work drinks have been replaced with video happy hours.
Ongoing training and development is no exception.
Just like schools and universities are figuring out the remote classroom, HR, training, and enablement teams are figuring out how to take their in-person learning to remote.
In this post, we’re going to cover what remote learning is and a 6-step process you can use to implement it in your own organization.
What is Remote Learning
At its most basic, remote learning is when you teach your staff new things via a remote connection. Remote learning can come in a lot of different flavours depending on how robust or complex your system is.
The most common use cases for remote learning are:
- To communicate process, procedure, or policy changes to an organization
- Ensure that staff are compliant with regulatory requirements
- Career development
- Technical certifications
- Ongoing product education
- Optional courses for personal / professional improvement
Major remote learning platforms are generally divided into two categories.
Some remote learning platforms provide content for you in a buffet-style course selection. Salesforce Trailhead and LinkedIn Learning are two examples.
Others give you all the tools to build your own courses. This includes tools like Moodle and Advantage CSP (we’re going to mostly focus on the second type).
Remote Learning 101: Lift-and-Shift Remote Learning
Remote learning 101 is what a lot of organizations turned to when the pandemic started. They took whatever training they absolutely had to deliver and ported it into Zoom sessions. Same subject matter experts (SMEs) and effectively the same delivery mechanism.
While this solved the problem in the short term, it quickly became obvious this wasn’t going to be a sustainable solution long-term, if for no other reason than 8-hour Zoom meetings are unbearably boring.
Remote Learning 201: Dedicated Courses for Specific Problems
This is where most organizations are trying to get to right now. They’re looking for a way to deliver learning and training online and are looking to do it in a more engaging way that actually takes advantage of the fact we’re all remote.
Often, this is when a learning tech stack becomes more relevant.
At this stage, remote learning is usually a combination of live Zoom calls with SMEs, pre-recorded video content, written content, and some sort of course knowledge check, like a quiz.
Depending on the sophistication of the technology delivering all the above, you may include things like drag and drop word associations or matching games, etc… to improve retention.
Remote Learning 301: Remote Learning Done Right
This is where remote educators should aspire to be, and is where organizations like Salesforce, Google, and HubSpot have already gotten to and actually turned their remote learning on their customers.
Remote learning done right doesn’t just educate and certify your internal team members. It also loops in your broader ecosystem of customers, community members, and participants and gamifies the experience to encourage further education and development.
Few organizations will get to this level, but if you can you build not only a well-informed team and ecosystem, but you actually build out your own brand equity and value across all your partners.
How to Implement Remote Learning
Now that we know what remote learning is, let’s dig into how you actually do it.
For now, we’re going to assume you’ve achieved 101 status. If you haven't, then you can likely hack it together with your existing remote working tech stack and a few calendar invites. Here’s how you take it to the next level.
1. Set your objective
First off, what are you trying to achieve with your remote education? This will drive the rest of your strategy, so it’s important to be crystal clear about what success looks like.
For some, this will be a simple regulatory requirement. For businesses, it’s often about increasing top-line revenue by making your sales team better.
Whatever it is, make sure your objective is clear and well-understood by the rest of the team you’re going to try and remotely teach.
2. Assemble your content
Once you have your goal, you need to assemble your content. It doesn’t have to be in a final form or anything at this stage — that comes next.
Right now, just figure out what content you need to deliver. Then, evaluate your existing content. What can be repurposed? What do you need to build from scratch?
For example, let's say you were building a course to teach people about a specific product, and you had a technical webinar of that product. You might take that and see that it says everything you need — just in the wrong format. That’s fine! You can slice it into smaller videos later. For now, just see what you have and what you need to edit / reassemble / build.
At this stage, you also need to think through who’s going to help with any content you don’t have.
3. Build your course
Now it’s time to build out your remote learning course.
First, choose your distribution tool. That will give you an idea of what the end product will look like as well as how best to plug in the content you’ve assembled.
Next, start adding in the content you have. Try and mix up the formats, and make it as engaging as possible.
Finally, go back to your content gaps and start to build out the additional content you need in the format that’s going to work best for your course.
Couple of common pitfalls to avoid:
- Going too broad: you’re better to make two, hyper-targeted courses rather than one vague course.
- Adding in too much: if in doubt, cut it out.
4. Release your course
Release day! Send your course to your constituents. Treat this as a launch, and try and do whatever you can to get people excited about it. An email blast to your learners is a good start, but think of ways you can make it more fun to engage with on opening day (e.g. prizes for the first one to complete it, etc... )
5. Validate your remote learning happened
Next, you need to validate that your learning actually happened. Quizzes and certifications are the standard tools here. This is also where gamification can come in, and the more noise you make at the start, the more effective your validation and gamification will be.
Ideally, if you can get people to actually share out the fact they completed your courses, then you can start to build momentum and, eventually, build towards totally self-directed, evergreen learning.
6. Evaluate your outcome
The last step here is to evaluate your outcome. Did your remote learning achieve the goal you designed? Did you certify the right number of learners, or engage the right number of employees, or achieve the revenue outcome you were looking for? Make sure you revisit your original goals to get a good handle on what’s effective and what isn’t for your specific organization.
Given our reality right now, it’s safe to assume remote learning is going to be a part of our life for a while.
And, unexpectedly, this is a good thing. Remote learning comes with a ton of perks over in-person learning, namely that it can happen anywhere, any time, asynchronously. And for growing organizations with distributed coworkers, that’s a huge plus.
What’s more, remote learning can be scaled and transformed into a powerful tool for constituency engagement, whether that’s users, customers, or partners.
The key is building a course that works, with clean objectives, validated results, and outcomes that close the loop on the learning experience.