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by Wayne Turmel

Recently I was honored to speak at ATD TechKnowledge, a conference for learning professionals who use technology in training. Besides meeting all kinds of cool, smart folks, one of the great joys for me is walking the expo floor and seeing what’s new in helping people grow and learn. You also learn the new buzzwords, because they change all the time. This year, apparently, it’s the phrase, “Like Netflix for learning.”

Okay, what does that actually mean?

It means two things: first, video is an effective means of learning at a distance. Secondly, just as Netflix groups movies, comedy specials and documentaries so it’s easier (although not always simple) to find what you are looking for on any given day.

On-demand video is a great help when someone is looking for a fast answer to a question. Many of us have figured out how to fix a dishwasher or find a quick recipe (personally, I’m learning the harmonica) and we don’t have to track down a live person to do it. We just use our phone, or our laptop, or our tablet no matter where we are. (Also, nobody has to be around when I’m practicing the harmonica, which is probably a blessing all around.)

If you’ve looked at Netflix or Youtube, you know that the videos are grouped in different ways to increase the odds of finding what you’re looking for. Some of the ways are:

  • Most relevant- the titles match what you’re looking for
  • By subject- stand up comedy specials, or movie trailers, or music lessons are grouped together
  • Most popular- people often recommend what they have found most useful-or try to warn you against wasting your time

You get the idea.

Most of the vendors on the expo floor were selling services that will do that for you. Learning Management Systems (LMS) are basically designed to track training or learning in an organization and many of them have pre-programmed videos, courses and other materials you can search for and find when you need them. Other vendors were offering services on the cloud where they will provide and house that content for a fee. Depending on the needs of you and your team, most of these solutions would probably help.

Of course, if budget is an issue, or your team is trying to learn in a hurry, there’s a DIY solution as well. You can use a platform like Dropbox, or Google docs, or SharePoint to create your own “Netflix for learning.” Here are some tips:

  • Use links and shortcuts. If you find a good video on YouTube, for example, you don’t have to download and save the file (and you’ll probably save yourself a copyright infringement). Just give it a title so people will know what it is, like “How to Change Your Outlook Status” Then hyperlink to the actual video.
  • Save the same link or file in multiple folders. Here’s where the “Netflix” part comes in. Just as a movie might be under “Action Thrillers,” or “New,” or “Science Fiction and Fantasy,” you might be looking for that video under “New Additions,” as well as “Email tips,” or “Productivity.”  Just because your filing system makes sense to you, doesn’t mean someone else would be looking for that video in the same place. Take the extra two minutes to put the links in various places so they’ll be found.
  • This works for videos, podcasts, blogs and articles. Unlike your video on demand service at home, this isn’t just for videos. You can list any learning resource you want. Just save the file or the link where people will actually find it.
  • Create the process and filing protocol as a team—and hold people accountable for using it. You know lots of good ideas that died on the vine because nobody used the tools or bothered to contribute. As the leader, it’s easier to get buy-in if everyone has a voice in how the system is set up. Also, when someone adds material, spread the news. Congratulate people who contribute, and if people have a question, don’t forget to recommend the learning portal as a resource.

One of the biggest challenges of remote teams is not being able to quickly ask people questions or get answers in a hurry. Creating an online resource will allow you to overcome that hurdle, and people will get a chance to share their knowledge with the team.

At RLI, we specialize in providing this kind of on-demand learning experience. Check out some of the training we have available for remote leaders.




Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

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