A Remote Opportunity

A Remote Opportunity

March 30, 2020

With those in the professional workplace now physically distancing from each other and remotely working from home, anyone who had plans of doing something—a training workshop, a sales pitch, a team meeting, a client lunch—in person is left trying to figure out how to accomplish that something remotely.

There is an opportunity in this moment of attempted translation from "live on site" to "live remote." That opportunity? Intentional design.

Designing with intention means starting with objectives and backward-planning methods in service of them. It means discovering and considering the other people involved (e.g., your audience) and planning those methods to accomplish your objectives with those people (e.g., to teach them to improve in a certain skill).

Sometimes, we fall into the trap of rote performance of activities for the sake of their time-honored tradition, drifting over time from their original purpose. Sometimes, we (or those we'd need to convince) don't ask "why" or see the need to engage in intentional design. Now, many of us (and those) might see the need, as we don't have the mental model of "how it's always been done" to fall back on.

Now, when we look to figure out how to translate, say, a workshop that was going to take place in the same physical space, the decoder ring for that translation lies in discerning what the goals were for that workshop and then seeking to design within our new constraints ways to accomplish those goals.

That might be a straightforward task if somebody did that analysis for the original workshop. In which case, terrific. But, if the goals for the original workshop weren't discerned, and, so, if the planned activities were rudderless anyway, what a great opportunity to . . . rudder.

An interesting study concluded that elearning and classroom instruction are about equally effective, when teaching methods are held constant. But, elearning has tended to outperform classroom instruction because it has tended to use more effective teaching methods. Whether it's online or in-person, what matters are our methods, and whether they're steering toward the right north star.

While our only responsible option is remote interaction, let's take this opportunity to re-assess the goals that lie—or ought to, anyway—behind our in-person interactions. Let's bring stakeholders into this conversation, especially those folks who might have scorned remote interactions or the need for instructional design in the past. And let's use this to make our interactions richer and more impactful, by starting with goals and intentionally planning our interactions to accomplish them.


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