MU Extension promotes remote work training
COLUMBIA - The number of remote workers has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the University of Missouri is attempting to train workers to find remote employment.
According to a June Stanford University study, 42 percent of the American labor force is working from home full-time, nearly twice the number of people working on their business premises. The percentage of remote workers is also up from roughly 35 percent in 2017.
Michele Kroll is the Missouri coordinator of the Rural Online Initiative, an online training program piloted by Utah State University to teach people the necessary skills to work remotely. The program, operated through MU Extension, was launched in southern Missouri a little over a year ago.
Now, Kroll says MU is trying to pilot it statewide.
“We just wanted to see what the response was,” she said. “What it would be and how people felt about the course before we really launched it statewide.”
Kroll said the course is open to anyone, and she has seen more interest in it after people started working from home during the pandemic.
“Definitely since COVID, we had the summer, we had a couple of spikes in enrollment numbers,” she said. “And we usually have about 120 or more people per month in the course. I think there was one month we had like 205 and that was quite something to help that many, but it was exciting.”
The four-week course is conducted online using applications such as Canvas and Trello. Students are expected to complete assignments and tasks by certain deadlines and join virtual workshops during the afternoons or evenings.
Kroll said the course is designed to be flexible around students' schedules. Upon passing the course, students receive a Master Remote Work Professional Certificate to present to potential employers.
“At the end of it, they should be able to design their digital work portfolio. They should be able to map out a career development plan," Kroll said. "So when we have something to discuss and I know the kind of direction that they're heading, then they can coordinate virtual meetings, they can have prepared cloud based agendas and meeting reports. They know how to strategically plan a project or workflow.”
The course costs $199 for the instructors and accompanying materials.
Donald Garrison completed the course in the summer and is currently doing freelance coding work while setting up his website. He said the remote work skills are well worth the costs.
“I'm glad I did that. I'm glad I did go through that course where I know this is actually going on,” Garrison said.
He said communication with remote workers was the most helpful part of the course.
“If I put something at the number one [spot], that would be communicating with the remote workers. So they still feel like they're part of the team. They're part of the company, and not just somebody that's way out in the bleachers, the bleacher seats or something like that."
Anyone interested in learning more about the program can visit the website of the Rural Online Initiative, or that of MU Extension.