The Remote Show







Show Notes:

In this second episode of our Remote Show live, recorded earlier in June, were were able to dive deep into the nuances of remote education. Barb has an extensive work history that spans marketing, small business ownership, writing and finally teaching (or guiding, as Bard likes to say) students in the realm of communication and culture. 

We have been looking for some time to speak with someone in education about what remote learning looks and feels like, and we thought now is as good a time as any to explore the topic further. What's great about Barb is that she was able to expand on many of the things that remote companies struggle with -- how do you create a team and a company people want to be a part of? How do you communicate well when people's strengths are so varied? What does collaboration look and feel like?

We go into this, and much more on our second episode of the remote show live.For those who want to participate in future events, please be sure to follow us on twitter when new webinars get announced! 

Connect with Barb on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/barb-collombin/

Interested in learning about Royal Roads programs? (they come very highly recommended). Check out their course offerings here: https://www.royalroads.ca/

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as we did!


Transcript:

 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Welcome to the second official Remote Show live podcast. I'm going to give it a couple of seconds here for people to get into the room. It looks like we're just getting up to the number that we were expecting here shortly. So I'm going to do a quick intro to my guest today. My guest is Barb Collombin. Barb is the associate, correct me if I'm wrong here at Barb, but associate faculty at the School of Communication and Culture at Royal Roads University. Is that right? 
Barb Collombin: 

Yeah. Correct. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Cool. And that is in Victoria, BC as well. So it might be interesting for our participants to know as well that Barb is my aunt. So we were just together recently on a family trip, which was pretty hilarious. But I'm lucky enough to have an aunt that is pretty much in the exact niche that we were looking to talk about today. So thanks for coming on Barb. 
Barb Collombin: 

Oh, thanks for having me. Looking forward to it. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

So I think we'll start it off here quickly by just saying that the Q and A section of the recording here is just down on the bottom there for people that are interested in that. And what we're going to be doing here is we're going to be doing a one and a half hour conversation to start and we'll get right into that shortly. But if you guys have questions or if you want us to cover something specific, or if you want to ask Barb a question, just feel free to put that in the Q and A section at the bottom. And then what we'll do is we'll stop at about half an hour, 35 minutes here and then answer those questions. So feel free to ask those as we go. But without further ado, let's get into this Barb. I like to start these podcasts by asking you, what over the past 12 months you've most been proud of. You can take that in any direction you like. 
Barb Collombin: 

Okay. So over the past 12 months, I guess something that I've been working on with a colleague at Royal Roads was to publish a case. And one of my jobs there is to coordinate a live case challenge, where we get an organization to present a communication issue to our masters students and during their residency, which is the three weeks at the beginning of the program, they come to Royal Roads and they sort of solve these communication challenges. They're not really competitions, but they're kind of like that. And one of the clients we had was Adam Olsen, who is a MLA actually in Victoria for the Green Party. And their specific communication challenge was all around engagement. 
Barb Collombin: 

How does he pivot from being an election candidate winning an election and then all of a sudden being at MLA, which is a member of legislative assembly, so their representative. And it was excellent. And the teams did a fantastic job. What we ended up doing was we ended up writing a case about it and my colleague and I, it was very iterative. It took a long time. We had to do it over and over again because case writing is so specific and unique, but we finally got it published in the International Journal of Instructional Cases. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Congrats. 
Barb Collombin: 

I'm proud of that, for work that's for sure. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah, you should be. That's awesome. I love that question because like I said it's a good starting point and it's fun to see where people take it. So I think the next thing that would be interesting for our listeners to know about is just a bit about your background and what you currently teach at Royal Roads. And then we'll get into the specifics of the [inaudible 00:04:31] stuff. But just to hear a little bit about your background and what you teach. 
Barb Collombin: 

So I kind of came into being an instructor at Royal Roads a little differently, but there are a lot of people that instruct at Royal Roads that have similar backgrounds. So I never thought I would be a university instructor. I started out with a BA in English, then I lived or I worked in Toronto. I worked for an art dealer. And then I lived in the Caribbean for seven years and I started a scuba diving operation with my partner and I worked for the government there. I did sales and marketing and eventually moved to Victoria in 1999. And after having kids and being at home, I wanted to update my skills. So I did my masters in communication in 2005 at Royal Roads. And I started working in not for profit, started of working for the government, doing different things. And then in 2011, I started teaching in the same program that I was a student in. 
Barb Collombin: 

And at the beginning I was teaching mostly online and then I transferred into face-to-face environments and I've been teaching organizational communication. Also, I teach a foundation of professional communication, sort of more of an interpersonal course that's at the beginning of a program and I organize the live case challenges. And I love it because it's always different, right? Communication is a field that is always evolving. There's always different aspects of it. The things that I learned in my masters, I mean, aren't even applicable. Facebook hadn't even started yet. At the end of the program I remember one of my classmates saying, I figured out a way we can all communicate together and we got on to Facebook. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Wow. Thanks for changing. They've especially changed over the past three months as I'm sure. Well, everybody knows that as well, who's listening to this. But I think one of the things that I was really excited to talk to you about is just... because we've obviously focused a lot in the tech sector and people are quite familiar with remote work and what the basics of it at least are. But from your perspective, from a teacher or just in academia itself, how has this changed the way that you teach? Is it pretty drastic in the way that you present your course material to your students? Very broad question, but what is the biggest shift that you've seen within your teaching itself and what your students are able to learn? 
Barb Collombin: 

That's a varied question depending on the courses that I'm teaching in. But I think about some students that I had on campus who had come from across the country and we're doing a one year accelerated bachelor of arts degree, sort of the third and fourth year in a BA in Communication. And they were coming to school every day for four or five hours. And they had long classes, but it's condensed. And they go for one solid year. But in March, like so many other students, they had to scramble. Leave campus, go back maybe to where they were living across the country or stay in their apartments and all of a sudden transition to online. And it was really hard for them. They had just a hard time transitioning. It was shocking in a way. 
Barb Collombin: 

And I also read some articles about students who had to do this and research from UBC and 75% of them were saying that they had distractions and a really tough time focusing. So I think that changed. What we did was we just sort of transferred all of our course material online and we met them synchronously. So we never had an online course where we were there. We would have long classes with them and stuff but we found that it was quite exhausting. So we got through that term. I think like a lot of other people, Royal Roads and our program didn't have that sort of pass, fail option. We actually got them to finish all their coursework, but this time around we're teaching them. I think there's just a lot of, everybody's quite empathetic to these students. We're trying to help them get through this new transition, but also prepare them for the reality of online learning and possibly remote working, which is going to happen. 
Barb Collombin: 

So we're all learning and relearning. And I have actually just took a course in facilitating, learning online at Royal Roads. And it's a five week course. And there's so many things that I learned about there. The instructional designer gave me this great analogy, she said online learning and face-to-face it's like driving your car to work or riding your bike to work. You get there, but they're so different. You can't compare them and both are good for some things and other things. So the big problems come when you try and transfer face-to-face situations into an online situation. It's not the same. And it's all about being really effective in your course design, it's creating very clear directives and stressing. A lot of stress on being kind and really helping build community and be empathetic to the students. 
Barb Collombin: 

So things like reaching out to them by email, setting up times to meet them face-to-face in office hours, creating opportunities for them, not just for them to sit and listen, but for them to actually be interactive and doing things in breakout rooms on our online platforms. So the opportunity to engage and get used to the online environment because these students had never been in an online environment. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Really? 
Barb Collombin: 

Yeah. And the instructional designer also said that, it's like going into a building for the first time and not knowing what a chair is or a desk is or a chalkboard or something. That's what somebody who has never been in an environment online is like. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

It's fascinating because it reminds me a lot of... well, the same struggles that are involved in teaching and involved in learning online are the same struggles when it comes to being effective in the business world when you're going about it. So I there's a lot of similar issues going on. So I'd be curious to hear one of the things that we often find, especially with people that are going remote for the first time that maybe you're working in an environment previously that just didn't allow them to work remotely. How have you approached the, and I say culture very broadly, but how do you approach the social aspect and feeling included and not being isolated in their learning and how would you then teach that? So a two part question. How do you then teach that for people going into the business world, where they're going to have to create a culture of being online that doesn't allow for those interactions in person. So is it something you had to change or how have you approached that? 
Barb Collombin: 

I mean, creating a culture and working with teams and building trust and understanding is quite easy to do in face to face situations, but it's definitely not impossible to do in remote ones. And there's so much research and there's so many ways that teams online can sort of get to know each other and become effective together. And it's creating the space for that to happen, creating the opportunities for them to build trust, to get to know each other. I recently just taught in a residency where the students were actually supposed to be on campus, but because of COVID they weren't. And so they were all scattered across the country and we were having classes with them every day. 
Barb Collombin: 

But anytime I gave them the opportunity in a breakout room to just go and discuss something that wasn't really academic or just to get to know each other, when they came back, they were like, that was so great. I got to talk to this person. They're not on my team so I didn't know them. So space, right? To be able to get to know each other and interaction. There's lots of benefits in online as well. People that are sometimes socially awkward have a tough time in face-to-face environments and it's sometimes easier for those people to be able to share their opinions when they're not in a synchronous face-to-face through discussion forums to show their knowledge, that kind of thing. 
Barb Collombin: 

So there's benefits to both. And I think that conversational turn taking and psychological safety, those were the two things that Google discovered in that 2016 huge research that they did about effective teams. What were the two most important components of that. And so that's what I always think about when I'm setting that up with students, the opportunity to do that and get together and work together and create some content and feel good about it. I think that's also a great way to do it, sort of learning by doing, an experiential. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

So that piece of the Google findings is really interesting. And I think I'd heard about that, but I've never really been able to pack to pick that apart. Can you go into how that would work in practicality in a business perspective? How would you be able to translate those findings and then make sure that you apply that to a team that you manage, for example? 
Barb Collombin: 

Right. So Google did all this research on the most effective teams and they published it, I think, in the Harvard Business Review about what was the most effective way to do that. And what they find is that often in teams or in groups of people, especially in face-to-face environments, because of hierarchy, because of personalities, some voices are heard a lot more than other people. So how do you get those quieter voices? How do you get people to share their ideas? And there's all sorts of ways that you can do that. An organization that comes to mind is one out of the University of Calgary called ITP Metrics. And what they do is they developed this system of teamwork in teamwork. And what they do is you do this acronym, it's called S.U.I.T. And it's S.U.I.T, it's share, understand, integrate, and then team decision around an idea. 
Barb Collombin: 

So that's something that we get them to do. So if they're working on a project or something, we ask them to sort of use the S.U.I.T methodology. So everybody gets to share an idea for brainstorming, that kind of thing. You'll understand it. Then you sort of try and implement all of the ideas together and then the team makes the decision. And that is something that ITP Metrics works also with organizations as well, lots of companies and helps them make effective teams. So that's just sort of that opportunity to build trust, right? Because if you trust your teammates, if you trust who you work with, then you can be creative. Then you can start to really- 
PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:17:04] 
Barb Collombin: 

Then you can start to really grow and start to achieve what you want to, but also learn and everything else. So it's about really creating trust on teams. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah. Yeah. It's really interesting because I've thought about this before as well. And it's very easy I think for people, especially managers of teams, to understand or to even realize it's happening when there's somebody that doesn't necessarily, they aren't as confident in giving their opinion and in sharing their ideas. That can kind of fly under the radar a lot of times with remote teams. And so how do you account for those people that aren't going to put up their hand necessarily and talk in a group chat? Or how do you make sure that you cultivate an environment where everybody that has their different opinions and different feelings towards sharing in the public has an opportunity to do that? Is there anything that you can speak to on that? 
Barb Collombin: 

Really it's about structure and design, right? So you structure a course in a way that gives multiple opportunities for people to do that. And you design a course so that they are able to show in different ways that they're present and that they have done something. Instead of writing on a discussion forum, maybe they could do a Padlet. Or maybe often in my courses, because I'm not teaching academic writing, I'm not teaching really a lot of communication theory, although I'm teaching organizational communication theory, but I sometimes say, "Okay, instead of writing, why don't you just give me a video? And why don't you just talk about this concept and this idea?" Because I also feel like that's another skill that's so important. When people leave university, chances are they're not going to have to write too many academic essays unless they're furthering on their career. But they might have to do a pitch to their manager or to someone in their team about their idea. 
Barb Collombin: 

So the ability to articulate yourself and the ability to do a pitch, to set a pitch properly about an idea or a concept that you want to integrate is really an important skill in communication. To advocate for yourself, to be able to be in an interview and say, "I think I deserve this. I think I should get paid this because this, this, and this." So setting those frameworks up are things that I think are good. And like I said, one of the things that I've learned about online learning is that you should offer a variety of ways for people to show and express the content of the course, and to prove that they've understood it. There's not just one way. And I think that's what's so great about how learning is emerging right now. It's that it's not the stand and deliver method anymore. It's figuring out multiple ways for everybody to absorb the information and to share it. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah, it seems like it's more comparable or more similar to what a modern business environment is in a lot of cases, which is the remote teams and being able to collaborate and share ideas. And you were saying before we hopped on here that a lot of the teaching that you do is not, like you said, just speaking to a group of people. It's, "We have a problem that we need to solve together. And how do we do that?" And you might be steering the ship, but to a large degree, it's a collaborative working together sort of environment. So do you think that is this where teaching goes? Is this the future of teaching? And how is this going to change what online or what learning is moving forward? 
Barb Collombin: 

Yeah. It's funny. I don't even like to think about it as teaching. I'm more facilitating. I'm more leading people through a course. There's a scholar, his name is Garrison, and he describes online learning when you're facilitating it is you're a guide on the side. I'm just guiding people through content. I learn just as much from my students as they would from me. It's a reciprocity that's going on. And I think it's based on this new way of thinking as this sort of community of inquiry. And that is for sure the future of learning. 
Barb Collombin: 

My experiences and what I've done in 30 years of communication work, I have lots of different experiences, but that doesn't mean that I know more than my students. They all bring their rich experiences to our classroom and they make it their own. That's sort of the beautiful reciprocal nature of learning. And Royal Roads is really, always from the beginning, it's this idea that anything you learn and anything you're doing, how do we apply it in the real world? And that I think is really beneficial. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah. So that's a good segue actually to my next question, which is we're seeing a lot of people now, obviously these are interesting and unique times in the sense that there's a lot of stress around what it means now to be a remote worker and it's not ideal in a lot of cases. But could you speak to a little bit about how somebody would even approach remote working in general? Let's say for as an example, they've come from a bigger team that was not remote first. Maybe they worked for a Fortune 500 company and they're managing a group of people and they now are all remote. And so it's kind of like, at this point, now what? What are the metrics that I need be able to be tracking? What do I need to be solving for? How do I make sure that my team's working? Where should they be going first in your opinion, or do you have an opinion on that? 
Barb Collombin: 

Well, it's interesting, Matt, because I've had a lot of conversations with my students about this type of thing. And some of my master's students are working in a wide variety of industries, oil and gas, government, healthcare, and they are all working remotely right now. And it really depends on the industry. I find the willingness for industries or government or organizations that have traditionally been very face-to-face, very structured in their time, you show up at 8:00, you leave at 4:00, they seem to have a hard time with this adaptation. They want their employees back in the office. And so there is this misconception that remote work isn't effective, but the people that are working remotely are finding it really effective. 
Barb Collombin: 

And then there are other organizations, like I mentioned, the oil and gas company that one of my students worked for with you before, and they are loving this remote work. They don't think they're going back. And they're thinking about giving up all the leases in the offices across Canada. So I think it has to do with systems and structures and how they are changing. And I think that's one of the great things about this pandemic is that it is forcing us to look at everything in a different light. 
Barb Collombin: 

So in terms of remote work and building and designing those structures, it would be the same thing as designing a remote class or an online learning class. It has to start with design. It has to start with structure. It has to start with how you're communicating and paying attention to that and creating ways to be effective. 
Barb Collombin: 

Another thing that I've noticed with myself, and I'm sure you're more used to it because you worked online remotely for a long time, but I find that I can spend a day doing back to back meetings and then it's 4:00 and I've been sitting here and I get up, and I have all this other stuff to do. So then all of a sudden it's 8:00 at night and I don't ever get to leave work. And when you do that, I think it's really important to set that structure up. So you get up, you go for the walk, you turn off your screen. Because otherwise I know my students are exhausted working remotely for the first time. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. One of the things, so you mentioned you were on calls a lot, and I think one of the things that I have found, and I think calls are really important to be able to put a face to a name in a lot of cases and be able to read nuance when it comes to body language and that sort of thing. And you spoke to a little bit about how that could affect culture and getting to know people. But I also think the flip side of that is when you're on calls all day, you find yourself, at least in my case, at the end of the call, I often would think, "That could have just been solved by a quick email. I don't have to be taking half an hour [inaudible 00:26:44] day to set up the call, to make sure our audio is working, all that kind of stuff that goes along with a call when a quick email or Slack message could suffice." 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

So it seems to be a balance between the two, because you don't want to go all the way in that direction or else you're just constantly not seeing your employees and not getting to know them as you should. But also, back-to-back-to-back calls just doesn't seem effective either. So I mean, I've probably answered my own question, but it seems like it's probably a balance between the two and I guess structuring face-to-face time once a week or once a day maybe is the way to do that. But at least that's been my experience. 
Barb Collombin: 

Yeah. I mean, and when you were saying that there's, because I live about 25, 30 minute drive from Royal Roads and we would often go at the beginning of semester and mid-semester and meet as instructors with our program head. And since we've been doing it online, it seems ridiculous for me that I'm actually going there for those meetings. While I miss the interaction and the face-to-face, it's ridiculous. I have a brother-in-law who works in London, England, and he works in insurance and he would fly to New York for a meeting and then go back the next day. And he says, "I mean, those days are over. That's just not going to happen anymore." 
Barb Collombin: 

So just like now we're getting the Zoom fatigue because everybody's always on Zoom, yeah, maybe it's more just like a text or a call. But yeah, I know what you mean. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah. 
Barb Collombin: 

It's always a search to try and be as effective as possible. How can you manage your time in a way that makes sense when you have so much to do? It's really trial and error though I find as well. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah. Yeah. It seems that there isn't really one, because I get asked a lot about, "Okay, how should I structure my company?" And I've just asked you this question, so I'm a bit of a hypocrite, but it's, "How should I structure my company now that I'm going remote?" And it's like, well, how do I answer that question? It depends on how many people you have, if you're able to work, to be in person and what the personalities are of the team and all that kind of stuff. But it seems like such a nuanced balanced thing. And you have to kind of do the trial and error thing until you figure it out. 
Barb Collombin: 

Yeah. And how about what's working? What isn't? Where do you want to be? Are you getting there? So maybe it's an opportunity to actually create a better environment and to be more effective. I will say, without a lot of distraction in the rest of my world, since COVID, I have had the ability to focus in on my work more. I don't know if you find that. Because not as much is happening in my personal life or in other ways. For a while there, I couldn't go and play tennis or go and do other sports or anything. So I just had to read this book or work and stuff. And I found that I was actually being more productive. Then I got a little tired, but there's that balance, right? 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah. Yeah. No, I think keeping times for ... And there's things that you can account that can help with this sort of thing, but blocking time off is something I've heard. And it's something that I do as well for deep work and to not allow for distraction. Especially over Slack or checking email and that sort of thing blocking time off is really important for us and for me, for sure. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

So I would like to continue because you're a unique guest in a sense, because of the fact that you're in academics and academia. And this is going to be an impossible question to answer, but where does this take learning in general? Are we going to be seeing the end of in-person coursework like in university? What does the landscape of learning look like for the next year or two years or five years? 
Barb Collombin: 

Well, my prediction is that online learning is going to become a reality and it's going to become an essential part of every program. I think what will happen is more of a blended model, where you have some things that are online, but you also have face-to-face as well. The research does show that that's the most effective way to deliver learning. I think online learning has the potential to transform the world in a lot of ways when you think about it. When I lived in the Caribbean, all the kids on the island that I lived on, which was a small island, they had to leave home at 15 and they had to go and study in the bigger islands, like Barbados or Jamaica and Trinidad if they wanted to go to university. One of our learning designers at Royal Roads, she grew up in Tasmania and the same thing happened to her. She had to leave home to pursue her education. 
Barb Collombin: 

So with online learning, you have the opportunity to reach people who you would never be able to reach in other ways. You have the ability for communities to stay and grow. You won't have as much brain drain, maybe, of people having to leave places. And they can stay and contribute. What's going to solve a lot of the problems that we're facing right now, the social unrest, all of that kind of stuff? It's education. It's understanding. It's the ability to adapt and learn and stuff like that. So I really think that it's important for us to understand how different online learning is. It's not the same as face-to-face, and it shouldn't be treated the same, but it's also really valuable. And that it's really important to understand that, if you're on the sort of instructing or if you're in a position to develop online learning, how important it is to design an online learning environment that really reaches everybody. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah. I wonder though, and this just might be more pessimistic view. Because I agree with you in a lot of cases that it's going to allow for people to be educated that wouldn't have otherwise been educated. But do you worry about the quality of, because it's accessible to everybody and there's all these kinds of online learning platforms popping up. Is there a concern over just the quality control for this kind of thing? Or is that something you've thought about? 
Barb Collombin: 

You know, like anything, I think there's always going to be great quality and there's always going to be lesser quality of product- 
PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:34:04] 
Barb Collombin: 

And there's always going to be lesser quality of products. Look at something like the K to 12 system and the way they've had to adapt and I think that in order for that to end up being really successful, teachers need support. They need support to understand more and to learn how to be effective doing it. So no, I don't worry about the quality and I just think it's going to become a reality just like remote learning is and that we'll figure it out. And I think in the end it will be more effective and better, we'll reach more people. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

The reason I asked that is because I've heard people's experiences when it comes to they'll course, for example, and it'll be a more online specific course and they will have the course material provided or built by the learning designers and then the teacher will be somebody who's contracted out to teach the program. And so there doesn't seem to be a lot of fluidity between the actual course or the teacher and the content. And I think from a business perspective, you want your business to scale, but how do you scale and keep the quality of the content and the teaching as it should be. That's where I was coming from with that question [crosstalk 00:01:46]. 
Barb Collombin: 

When we instruct Royal Roads, we often inherit courses that other instructors have taught. And it's so easy to tell when it's not their content, it's somebody else's, and it feels so inauthentic to teach it. And I'm sure it's the same way with what you're talking about. And like anything, it takes a lot of care and design and attention in order to be effective and to do it well. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

For those who might be interested to learn or to go ahead with a quality program, obviously we recommend Royal Roads, but outside of that is there any strictly online learning institutions that you would recommend to people that you think are really high quality? 
Barb Collombin: 

I've taken a course with Coursera- 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

[inaudible 00:02:46]. 
Barb Collombin: 

I've taken them the Yale happiness course, which was really interesting. And I've done a few courses and seminars through Stanford and the d.school in design thinking. And I'm amazed at how many of the MOOCs, the MOOCs or whatever courses are coming up. I think it just depends when you're in an asynchronous online course, it's self-paced, it all depends on the subject matter and your desire to learn it, if you're motivated. But I found Coursera to be very straightforward and easy to follow and they're booming. They're doing so well. How about you? Have you done any? 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Well, I've done some courses through Udemy before, just some online marketing courses and things like that. I haven't done a larger certificate course or anything like that. And to be honest, my hesitation around it is just that it's just over the quality more than anything else. I want to make sure. And especially when it comes to things like the example of online marketing, these things change so quickly, how do you know that the course from last year is even relevant right now? 
Barb Collombin: 

Well, especially with something like communication, there aren't a lot of courses that I use textbooks in for that very reason because they're so expensive, for one, and also because everything changes so quickly. The course that I took at Royal Roads, it's part of their Professional and Continuing Studies Program. It's available to anyone who wants to take it. And it's a five week course in facilitating learning online. And a lot of people in that course that I took were people in companies, they weren't instructors, but they were looking to try and adapt some of their training to online platforms. And so they were learning the basic tenants of online learning through these instructors. At Royal Roads, our instructional designers have their PhD in this. They're very skilled. We had the Canada research chair in innovation and technology and learning at Royal Roads and he's very involved in these courses. I highly recommend that course. I learned a lot about how to set up an online platform. There were people in corrections, there were people in healthcare, there were people in all sorts of different industries that were there for that reason. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

That's one of the great things and we've said this before, but one of the great things about this movement is the realization that... Because I've had an inkling of this and the idea that most jobs can be remote, but because if you're on a computer for most of the day, then you could be at home for the most part. And there was a quote from Tobi Lutke from Shopify and he was saying that the past three months has sped things up 10 years and that's not verbatim, but just the idea that the three months has allowed for us to speed up and are progressing the way things were already going in 10 years. It's interesting to think about that. And I think you're right. I think for the most part and the quality will continue to go up, people will get better at teaching online and what that looks like. I think right now we're just in a bit of a transition, so that is a big piece of it. How do we do the things that are important to us and be online and make sure that the course materials is understood and people are learning what they should? 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

We have a bit of a Q and A session here. It looks like for right now, it's actually... If anybody has any questions, feel free to let us know and we can get to those. But just before we do that, is there anything else that you wanted to speak to about just your experience over the past three months and just in general, when it comes to online learning and what that's looked like for you? 
Barb Collombin: 

I think the technology will adapt, too. I think the quality will. I think everybody's realizing the changes and how to be effective, but I think also the quality will, sorry, the technology will change. And when I did my masters, there was nothing synchronous about it. I was just reading a lot of material on a screen and answering discussion boards and that kind of stuff. And now I think about things that we're doing online with our students and it's amazing. We're building community, we're getting to know each other so well, we're inviting clients into our rooms, and we're talking about real life problems, we're solving problems, we're doing facilitations, all of these amazing things, video and things that just never would have happened. I think the technology will adapt more, too, and we'll have some fantastic learning platforms. 
Barb Collombin: 

Just like remote work as well, will that type of technology will adapt more. I think it's just a really exciting time actually and there are some fantastic things about it. I do worry a little bit because I think the social skills that some of our younger students have, they haven't had the opportunity to practice those as well not so much, just the opportunity be face to face and to work together at interviews and that kind of stuff. I wonder where that's going to go. It's not so much a worry, but I wonder where that's going to go. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

It's interesting and I think it's just that topic being top of mind likely is the answer to that question, which is there isn't really a good answer, but just the fact that we should be thinking about it and trying to account for it. Barb, we have a couple of questions actually here. The first question, it's pretty broad, but this person asks, "How can teams effectively collaborate remotely?" Do you have any thoughts on that? 
Barb Collombin: 

I wrote an article actually for our university website about a really successful team a few years ago. And there were things that they did, they were doing their masters of interdisciplinary studies. They hadn't met each other and they came together for 10 weeks remotely and they were this awesome team. And there were some things that they did that in terms of their structure really ensured their success. One of the things they did was they met often not for a long period of time, but they just met. They created opportunity to get to know each other personally, just sharing stories, just little, lots of times just in a meeting, just to check in with each other, how you doing, what's going on in your life. And through doing that at the beginning of every meeting helped. They didn't waste each other's time online when they met, they knew they had a schedule that they were going to adhere to. And they came prepared to every team meeting. They knew what they needed to do. They didn't show up and be like, okay, what are we doing? What's going on? 
Barb Collombin: 

And they also shared roles within the team. One person facilitated the meeting one week and then the next week another person did, one person was the editor, one person was a researcher. They shared that leadership and that was a really powerful thing for them to do. And they admitted, they were honest with each other. Sometimes in academia, there's a little bit of posturing that goes on. You don't want to admit that you don't know something and that you're not familiar with it, but they did. They really dug in and they were like, look, I have no idea how to do this. I don't understand APA or something. When they were vulnerable with each other, it built more trust and it also built that team idea together. I think that's about the brunt of it, but those were the things I did. And that was really effective. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

It's pretty powerful when the leader of either your team or your company shows that they don't know something or in this case, in academics or in any environment, really, to show that you can be vulnerable and admit to things that you don't know because then encourages everybody else to do the same thing. 
Barb Collombin: 

Absolutely. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

And I think it's really important. 
Barb Collombin: 

I would say that sort of an emerging quality of leadership that we haven't seen in the past, but is really becoming acceptable and actually a really attractive leadership trait, for sure. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

That was a good question. Thanks for that. I didn't see who that was, but thank you for that question. The next question here, "Is it important for remote workers to take specific courses to be a better remote worker or is learning from experience a better way to learn?" That's a good question. What do you think? 
Barb Collombin: 

I think it depends entirely on the situation. It is a really good question and taking courses isn't the answer for everybody. Experiential learning is really how you learn for yourself in what you want to do. As a general question, I can't really say. Experiential learning is something that we do at Royal Roads all the time. We really believe in it. If you're in a communication course, like you are doing a communication plan, practicing pitches, doing social media, content, everything, you're making video, you're doing all of that and learning from it and experience helps you get better at things. I think it's a combination, really, but I don't think online learning is for everyone. It just depends on what you want to do. I'm not sure if I'm answering that well. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

No, I think that's a good thing. All of these things are hard questions to answer it because I think it depends largely on your personality. And it depends on if you do have experience in an area or within a company that works remotely, that's going to be entirely different from another company that you also... It depends on which company that you have the experience with. I think it's definitely helpful to get the basics of at least the environment that you're working in and what to look out for, but obviously, having experience I think is really, really important. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

But the trouble with remote work especially now is it's hard to get a remote job if you don't have remote work experience. How do you show in a resume or show in an interview that you can be an effective remote worker not having had the experience? And that's a really hard question to answer. I don't know. I think courses like yours, Barb, that would help, I think, in just allowing for that online learning, just saying, "Hey, I completed something that was online that we had to account for all the things that we normally account for in a business, but just in a learning environment." That's really important, but what do you think? Do you have any thoughts on that? 
Barb Collombin: 

Well, I think that's an excellent point. To be able to say, if you don't have experience, but you want to get into something, a lot of our students when they practice for interviews or go to interviews after they complete their degrees, especially their undergrads, they have a list of all the things that they've done that applies to the job. And they are things like, yeah, I've been remote, I've done this, I've completed all these different types of assignments, I showed up, I got my work done on time, all of that kind of stuff. That shows to the experience of being in that environment. The course that I took through Coursera, I took it because it touched on some of the things that I talk about in a course that I teach in the Foundations of Professional Communication course and I wanted to see how they were framing it and what they were talking about and what content they were using. I was curious about how they were taking such a broad subject as happiness and how they were turning it into a course. That's why I did it. I was curious. But have you ever seen a course where you're like, oh my goodness, I really want to learn that? 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Just in general or like for remote work specifically? 
Barb Collombin: 

Anything. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

I actually haven't done this, but I would love to take a... 
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [00:51:04] 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

...Is to see, I actually haven't done this but I would love to take a course on... Because there's lots of courses and resources out there to do with how to be an effective remote worker and I have a remote work certificate or I have this. And so, having worked remotely now for two and a half years I would love to see what do they think is important for a remote worker to be effective. And then in the same compare and contrast way that you do is just okay that might be, I might completely disagree or I might think that that's totally a valid point or I might have missed something. So, I've always been curious about that but I haven't actually been able to do it yet. So actually, if anybody has any thoughts on that I'd be happy to if you can put that in the chat if anybody has good experiences or resources that they think would be valuable there definitely let us know. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

So there's a couple more questions here. And then I know that we're coming up on an hour here but a couple more questions. So, what are common mistakes you see organizations make when communicating to their employees? How does this impact its culture? That's a good question. 
Barb Collombin: 

Wow. We could talk for a few hours about this one and it's so interesting because organizational culture is a direct result of how an organization communicates with itself. So, and an organization is always communicating whether you realize it or not, in the messages they send, in what they do, everything. So common mistakes would be an organization that really talks about what they value. 
Barb Collombin: 

So, if they really value things like have you ever been in a meeting where someone says to you, "I really want your opinion. We're thinking about this change that is about to happen what do you think?" And so, you tell them what you think and they're listening to you and then they go and do the exact opposite or something happens then it's not. That's what we call an espoused value because they say that they want this but they're not doing this. And when that starts to happen, when you feel like you're unheard or where you feel like you're not valued then you start to create this culture of insincerity and that's how the toxicity starts to seep into it. 
Barb Collombin: 

I was listening to a podcast this morning actually, The Daily, and it was about unemployment in America. And a woman was saying that she had worked for Weight Watchers for 18 years and she got a three minute call almost recorded scripted by her manager telling her she'd been fired and telling nothing, absolutely nothing. And as I was listening to her describe this after 18 years of work being laid off I was just thinking, "Boy, what are they communicating to the people who work there? Where is the value and what does that say about what they are really valuing?" They'd probably say that they treat their employees well and that kind of stuff. 
Barb Collombin: 

So, and a lot of the time organizations are just focused on the bottom line or hitting targets and that kind of thing and they're not really thinking about the communication practices that happen but really communication is everything. How you want people to work, how everybody interacts with each other. If you do it in a way that is purposeful, in a way that actually gets people to really feel their value and feel like they're working towards something then all the success will come because people want to stay there. We have so many disengaged organizations right now. Something like the research shows that 63% of people at work are disengaged. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Really? 
Barb Collombin: 

Yeah. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

So what is that a result of is it just laziness or is it too old fashioned of an outlook on how to manage people? You would think that these sort of things would be obvious and having an automated call saying you were fired after 18 years it seems like a no brainer as something you shouldn't do. So is it just like what's causing that, is it oversight, is it laziness, what is it? 
Barb Collombin: 

I think it's a product of us working in systems that are no longer effective. I think they're outdated. I think it's distraction. I think people are going through the motions and they're not really even realizing the impact of what their processes are doing. I think people are exhausted and I think a lot of it is just nobody seems to have the time to really think about the consequences of what's going on. So, when you do get organizations where you have really purposeful leaders that are leading from their values and working as a team and not just one person and everyone feels like they're a part of something you can see the difference so clearly. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah. I wonder if that, because you can point to it and I'm sure you can do the same thing. I have a number of companies that I could point to and even from an outsider say, "I would love to work for that company." And it's interesting to think about what that is, what a company's persona or what they've been able to create that has me not really knowing anybody within the organization but just from the outside saying, "I would love to work for that company." It's such an interesting thing to think about and I think likely it's leadership, it's the way that they interact with issues that might align with my values and that sort of thing. But it's such a, you would think that it would be such an important thing for businesses to get right and organizations to get right. And for whatever reason, people aren't incentivized to do a good job when it comes to things like wellbeing and feeling purposeful and work. So is it a matter of incentives do you think that's on the right track? 
Barb Collombin: 

I think incentives only go so far. I think culture is caught and it's also taught. So probably when you start working for an organization you're most acutely aware of the culture around you because it's new and you're stepping in and you're looking and you're learning how to do things. How do we do things? Just off the top of my head I think about somebody I know a young kid who started working at a grocery store here in Victoria and he showed up for work in the deli and no one told him what to do. He had to watch and figure it out. And that says so much about the organization and how they treat their employees and how they onboard and how they're communicating who they are and what they do, just little things like that. 
Barb Collombin: 

So, when you show up for your first job or when you start working for an organization and you start those processes if you're remote, contacting who you're contacting and getting direction and then getting back to them. If they don't return your emails or if they don't show up for a meeting or if they do show up for a meeting and they're vague and they're not clear and they're not reaching out to you that is communicating a lot to you about first of all the structure that they're in and the work and how they're set up but also how you're trying to figure out how you fit in and how you're working there. So, when you get rid of that ambiguity and if you are able to have really clear direction and you feel like you're valued and you're listened to and you weren't then you want to be there. It doesn't matter if you're in a classroom online, or a job, or a family or a relationship it's all the same thing. We all generally want the same thing. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah. Yeah it's interesting especially in a remote context where that sort of thing I feel like is because it's easy to see somebody who is dejected in work I think in an office environment it's quite easy to see that the person is dejected or they're not feeling good about their work because you can see it visibly on them. But on a remote context because they're on Slack or maybe they're doing video calls once a week or something it's a lot harder to understand how is this person feeling. So I think it's one of those things where like you said you have to be just more diligent and aware of these things being important and not to forget about them if you're going to be successful in a remote setting. 
Barb Collombin: 

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Well, I think that was... Sorry did you have something else you wanted to say? 
Barb Collombin: 

No. No. That's good. That's true. Yeah. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

So, do you have time for one more question here Barb? I don't want to... 
Barb Collombin: 

Yeah, sure, one more question. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Okay. So, this person asks for communication tips for organizations leading during big changes like a pandemic or times of change so just how to communicate in times of change. 
Barb Collombin: 

Yeah I mean, it really depends on the organization, it depends on the size, it depends on exactly what you're doing, the nature of your work, if you're in healthcare or if you're an organization... Carl Wyke calls it the high reliability organizations. You can't be that, you have to make decisions and you have to make actions and follow through on them. But if you're a small company and there's so much uncertainty going on in your outside world how do you lead those organizations? Well, you do it by being transparent in terms of showing up, being visible and having those conversations, getting feedback, listening, creating opportunities for people to share. And you just try and be there for who you're working with. And when you are making change, when you are creating change, you're being really clear with the directive, you're communicating it in multiple ways on multiple platforms and you're making sure that everybody involved, everyone from all stakeholders are aware of it and really understand clear, simple terms, all of that. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Yeah. It's hard because it's one of those things where we are all trying to figure this out. And I think that's why you were saying before where just being empathetic as to I don't know what to do in this case. If you're going remote all of a sudden and you're a manager being like, "This is new to me and I'm going to try to figure this out, I'm going to do my best but I'm having a hard time as well as you are. So we're just trying to figure this thing out." So, that level of transparency likely is important. 
Barb Collombin: 

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Well, I won't take too much of your time, more time Barb. I really appreciate you coming on. Where should we be sending people? If people are interested in learning more about you or the course is there anywhere that you like to send people? 
Barb Collombin: 

I'm on LinkedIn and I also I'm on the Royal Roads associate faculty website and yeah The School of Communication and Culture has a blog, has a website and information. Yeah. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Nice. Well, I've never taken your class but I know you pretty well and I can say that if anybody's interested definitely check out Barb's courses and I know that I've heard good things. So, we really appreciate you coming on. I know everybody out there is I'm sure thankful for your time. And maybe at some point down the road we can do a part two because I have a bunch more questions specific to these different areas we weren't able to cover but I think this was a good first one. 
Barb Collombin: 

It was so fun. Thanks for having me Matt. I really enjoyed it. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

All right talk soon. Barb thank you so much. 
Barb Collombin: 

Okay. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Thanks everybody. 
Barb Collombin: 

Bye. 
Matthew Hollingsworth: 

Bye. 



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