Back to School chalkboard

Nov 3, 2022

Become a More Effective Remote Worker: Our Review of a Remote Work Certificate Program

By Ellen Whitt

If you’re like me, your first experience with remote work may have come as a result of the pandemic.  Back in March, 2020, so many of us who were fortunate to hold positions that could be done remotely, were cast into this new world of virtual meetings, team chats, excessive amounts of emailing, and even a return to talking on the phone!  I was serving at the time as a university administrator, and while my work translated fairly easily, others within my organization had a tougher road.  More than two years later now, the benefits of remote work – even with its inherent challenges – have been realized on a large scale and remote work, in some form, is here to stay!


So many tools and resources have sprung up as a result of the major and rapid shift to remote work.  A particularly thoughtful, well-constructed, and easily accessible course focused on succeeding in the remote work environment is now being offered through the Purdue Center for Regional Development/Purdue Extension Community Development.  This 4-week certification was initially developed as part of Utah State University’s Rural Online Initiative (ROI) but has extended across the country through partnerships like the one with Purdue.


Recently, a young colleague of mine at MakeMyMove (www.makemymove.com) and I took the course to experience it firsthand and gauge its value for various audiences.  The two of us graduated from college roughly four decades apart – he is an early-career professional and I am in an “encore” career.  That mirrors the age and experience spectrum of the new remote workforce and gave us a glimpse as to how helpful the Purdue course would be to a range of participants.


The course is on-line and four weeks in duration.  There’s a $199 one-time fee to participate, which opens up an ongoing line of resources (virtual career fairs, presentations on relevant topics, ability to join a network of remote workers, etc.) once the course is over.  Those who successfully complete the curriculum gain a certificate that can become part of the credentials they share with prospective employers.  The time commitment is estimated at about seven hours a week.  Only one of those hours is at a set time for a mandatory interactive weekly workshop.  There is also a brief “team exercise” that occurs midway through the course and involves working with a few other participants with whom you are matched to complete a short assignment as a group.  Otherwise, you are free to make your way through the nine modules.


The topics covered include:  framing your workday, communication, workflow, productivity and time management, working in teams, compliance issues (information security, risk prevention. etc.), and critical thinking.  There is also time spent on investigating “virtual careers” and learning how to develop your own remote job.  Many of these topics are the basics of professionalism in any work setting, but it is enlightening to explore the nuances of how they apply remotely as opposed to in an in-person setting.  Within the context of these subject areas, the course introduces and has you actively using the essential tools of remote work.  You are required to test the speed of your home WiFi, to engage in team communication through Slack, and to use Trello or Google docs for tracking workflow and developing timelines.


Each module has some interactive components that allow for you to test your knowledge acquisition along the way by utilizing video, games, and other methods that hold your attention.  One of my favorite components is the periodic interviews of CEOs and HR professionals with fully-remote companies navigating some of the shared challenges and opportunities presented by a “distributed” workforce.  Their insights are timely and applicable to both individuals and organizations on the whole.  There are also assignments to be completed and submitted each week.  They are not onerous or time consuming but are constructed in a way that makes them both practical and effective.  The grading/feedback from coordinators happens quickly and they are available to help as needed.


In the end, both my colleague and I found the course beneficial, but in different ways.  He has a facility already (as most young graduates do) with the technology that makes remote work possible, so much of that focus was pretty basic for him.  We both enjoyed the interaction with our coordinator, who works with the Purdue Extension Service, and with other participants who we met during the interactive workshops and breakout sessions.  There were participants from all four time zones, from many different fields, and at different points on their career path.  Quite a few were taking the course to better prepare themselves for entering the remote workforce in some capacity, and their needs/questions were different from those of us with at least some remote work experience.  They were perhaps the segment of participants best served by the totality of what was offered, but there was something to be learned by all!


If you are interested in adding to your arsenal of “remote work ready” skills, a fan of lifelong learning, or simply seeking opportunities to connect with the growing community of remote workers globally, this will be time well spent.  Check out what Purdue has to offer: https://pcrd.purdue.edu/remoteworkcertificate




Sign up to get notified when new offers become available.