We’ve all heard the gripes: Remote learning just doesn’t work!
Before the pandemic, our years of delivering hands-on workshops and in-person learning experiences made us serious skeptics, too.
After all, how does a global design consultancy known for visual capture and prolific use of sticky notes shift to captivate learners and workshop attendees online?
💡 Watch the on-demand webinar Virtual Makeover: How Embracing a Digital-First Workshop Mindset Created Global, Virtual Success or continue reading for highlights.
At XPLANE, we started hosting in-person Visual Thinking Workshops (now known as Visual Thinking Bootcamps) in 2017. When the pandemic hit, we realized we were far from offering virtual learning experiences.
These workshops were fully analog, two-day events featuring stacks of sticky notes and a flurry of pen-to-paper exercises. Participants were required to travel to Portland, Oregon for these intensive courses — a big commitment for most participants and for XPLANE staff hosting the event.
Because of this, our workshops were few and far between.
What made the workshop experience worthwhile was our ability to fully engage learners in the activities — sprinting through drawing exercises, collaborating in class on hypothetical projects, and making connections across a diverse range of people, from facilitators to strategists, artists, educators, and other professionals.
At the close of each event, participants would leave with more confidence in their drawing abilities, a slew of resources, and new connections and friendships.
As we began to pivot to virtual workshops during the pandemic, we realized it wouldn’t be enough to merely translate the in-person experience. Instead, we sought to capture the magic of in-person engagement online.
To accomplish this, we defined a set of criteria for success:
We learned a lot from launching our first virtual course: Visual Thinking Bootcamp. Here are a few lessons we learned:
We kept hand-drawn elements of our workshop intact by asking participants to share photos of their drawings on course-related MURAL boards. Using MURAL as home base for the course allowed us to easily share course assignments, enabled participants to collaborate and provide real-time feedback, and created a cohesive brand experience through designed boards and course handouts.
When developing our second virtual bootcamp (Strategy Activation Bootcamp), we shifted to a digital-first mindset, creating a fully virtual experience from the start.
To accomplish this, we moved away from the worksheets and pen-to-paper activities of our Visual Thinking Bootcamp and developed fully digital card decks, MURAL boards, and tools. We also developed a visual course roadmap to show our course sections, tools, and activities connected to the overall curriculum and learning outcomes.
During the Visual Thinking Bootcamp, we also learned students jump in and out of the course — joining as their schedules allowed. Therefore, it was important to give them an easy way to plug in and continue to be engaged even if they missed a session.
We significantly amped up the asynchronous engagement and collaboration by providing students a digital course workbook and an individualized MURAL board.
Students used these to develop their individual activation plan — an end-of-course assignment. Students could still share their plans during daily discussions and solicit feedback from peers and instructors, but most importantly, they could take their plan with them and adapt it to their context.
From the student perspective, this made the course instantly more applicable and practical.
As we’ve fine-tuned our approach to remote learning over the past 16+ months, we’ve discovered the joys and benefits of remote learning — deeper connections, a larger community of learners, powerful tools that enable creativity, flexibility in learning schedules, the excitement of mastering new skills, and much more. And our students echo our excitement.
To hear student reviews, download your tip sheet, or check out a sample template, we invite you to explore the presentation MURAL board.
Over the past year and a half, we’ve learned a lot about creating engaging remote learning experiences. Here are our top tips and takeaways:
We invite you to experience or learn more about XPLANE’s course offerings by viewing one of our many blog posts or webinars, or by signing up for a course this fall.
Welcome to the world of remote learning!
For information beyond virtual learning, check out the following resources: