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Remote Work Certification Transcript

Learn more about the Remote Work Certification Program at


Jodi Bruns: Welcome to Thriving on the Prairie. A podcast exploring issues concerning families and communities that inspire North Dakota movers shakers and community difference makers to engage in lifelong learning. Hi. I'm Jodi Bruns, Leadership and Civic Engagement specialist with NDSU Extension.Today we're joined with three of my colleagues who I work with on a pretty regular basis. And the topic today we want to share with you is regarding our remote work certification program that we kicked off in August. So I'd like our other presenters here to introduce themselves. I'll start out with Marie.

Marie Hvidsten: Thanks. Jodi, good morning. I’m Marie Hvidsten and I'm the rural leadership specialist with NDSU Extension. And I've been working with the remote work course the past several months. And I'm really enjoying it and appreciate the opportunity to work with the other three from NDSU as a coach.

Jodi: Thanks Marie. Macine.

Macine Lukach: Thanks Jodi. I’m Macine Lukach. I'm a Program Coordinator for NDSU Extension in the area of leadership and community development. And I, like Jodi and Marie, I’ve been working with this program and have found it very beneficial and hope to see others benefit from it also.

Jodi: Thanks, Maxine and Andrea.

Andrea Bowman: I’m Andrea Bowman, and I also work for NDSU Extension in the area of Leadership and Civic Engagement as a program coordinator and I, too, have been working with this program since last spring, and I'm excited to bring it to the people of North Dakota.

Jodi: Thanks, everyone. So what brings us here today is not unlike many people, most Americans, many Americans, we found ourselves working remotely about mid-March and really thinking about what do we do next, what does this look like? And certainly, sometimes we have done this when weather has prohibited us from driving to our office or workplace, but all of a sudden we found ourselves working at our dining room tables at our home office and so forth. So, we were introduced to a program that Utah State University Extension had been offering on remote work. It's a certification program. So the four of us decided to take that in April. And we felt it was so beneficial that we needed to bring this to North Dakota. And so I'll start with Andrea, so you have done a little research on the data and you know who exactly was working from home and what that looked like. Could you just share some of that information with us?

Andrea: Yeah, so for most of us, remote work became really real in in March, probably in North Dakota here and going forward. But when we look back on remote work was actually growing already. And in that you flex jobs in globe Workplace Analytics they focus major upward trend on people working remotely. They've they've noticed that over the years. So in the US from 2016 to 2017 remote work grew 7.9%. If they look back at the last five years, it was a 44% increase, in the last 10 years a 91% increase. So definitely already trending up in the amount of people that were working remotely. Then when we look at when we get into the pandemic time and when everyone had to make the shift quite quickly; in May of 2020, 100 million Americans were working from home and in June, according to some research at Stanford, and one of their economists, Nicholas Bloom, has some interesting research on remote work. But in June on June 29, 42% of us were working from home. 33% were not working at all. And 26% mostly essential workers were working on site. That's kind of interesting to to look back and realize that remote work was already growing a lot before everyone was kind of thrown into it without a choice. So the exciting thing about this course is that there, there's huge potential for remote work going forward and organizations, allowing some flexible work environments. So we're excited to help people continue to work remotely, but also build those skills that they need, even if it….it was something that they didn't necessarily plan on doing right away.

Jodi: When you read those numbers I shouldn't be surprised, but I am surprised. You know, we kind of live in a bubble and we drive and get in our cars in the morning, we go to work and I just don't think that trend has necessarily hit us. Maybe it's the upper Midwest, or even just, you know, specifically to North Dakota. I also read once that in December, a year ago zoom had 10 million daily participants and then four months later, there were 300 million participants. And the other... zoom isn't the only platform. So I think that that is astounding how people have just, as we've said so many times, pivoted to to remote work. Marie, I wonder if if you could tell us about, so when we went and enrolled as students in a remote work course they really focused on three kinds of specific work: a freelance, an entrepreneur, or a virtual employee. Could you tell us a little bit about each of those or what the definition of each of those are?

Marie: Absolutely. So some of us as Andrea talked about probably were working remotely and so you had that opportunity to maybe do something a little bit more what they call freelance. And that is you... you don't have the same employment with the same person or same company, but you are out there looking for, like if you were maybe a writer. Maybe you do an article for a journal, maybe next you do something for a university. Maybe you're going to write a grant so you're, you're kind of skipping around a little bit, but you're finding the work. Another one is starting a business, being an entrepreneur. And I'm guessing that some individuals, now, who, because of their job loss, maybe have started started to think about a a job that they want to or business they want to create. You know, when I was doing my research for my doctorate, I did that on women entrepreneurs in North Dakota. And it was so interesting to hear why someone started their own business and mainly it was flexibility. And when you're doing remote work, you have some flexibility with your working hours, you have some flexibility maybe with how you think about what you are going to work on, especially if you start your own business. So that freelance... that entrepreneurship... those are great opportunities for someone in remote work. And then some are full time employees. So they just don't go to a building, but they're at home, and for many people, that is now that they've experienced it, maybe that's what they want to do for their future.

Jodi: I think, if anything, the pandemic has just reinforced that old adage that necessity is the mother of invention and for many people, certainly in our experience as we have coached people through this remote work, that they are able to find maybe they're doing some blogging or some copy editing or, like you said, writing, which is great. I mean that's helped to keep keep people afloat and supplement their income. And so I appreciate that definition and really thinking about being deliberate and choosing some of those work experiences.

Marie: I think a lot of people are thinking about where do I want to live and then I'll work there. And now remote work allows that. Because there was one of our previous participants here in North Dakota, who is now gone through the program. That's what she said, I wanted to come back to rural North Dakota and yet I can work across the US doing the same work that I was doing in a building. So I think that's exciting.

Jodi: That's an excellent point and research supports that - that people want to live in a place where they call home. Perhaps where family is or that has some nice amenities. And I think if the pandemic taught us anything, that we should value the space that we have here in North Dakota. I can't imagine going through this in a small apartment in in a large city and so that's a really good point to make

Jodi: So Macine. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit, tell our listeners about, so we... we took this remote work course, the four of us went through this as students in April. It's a one month course. So what exactly does that look like? Are people just simply logging on and watching videos of course work? Or is it all self-directed learning?  Or what does that look like? Can you tell our listeners a little bit about what the course actually looks like?

Macine: As far as the courses comes around, if people are interested, they can find a wealth of information on our NDSU web page. You can go to and then search remote work on that website, you will see the class laid out. The classes are self-paced workshop to a point. It consists of four weekly workshops each Thursday, you can go onto the Canvas site and or it’s a zoom link and participate in the weekly workshop. For you review the three modules that you have been working on. Get to know each other, learn from each other. And then on the weeks in between, there are three modules that we, the participants work on and they are in a variety of areas. Some of the modules include work day, communication, workflow, productivity and time management, teamwork, compliance, critical thinking, virtual careers, and remote job development. We'll take a look at those closer, but that's just the titles of them. There's a lot more in each of them. So it's really, there's a lot of different things that are covered. And the program provides us with a lot of different tools that we can apply whether we are looking for remote work or if we are finding ourselves in remote work and just want to add those tools to our toolbox.

Jodi: So when we, when we decided to take this course, so there are nine modules and and I, and I thought, as Marie would say, my self talk was “What could I learn?” You go home, you set up your computer, you login and you go to work. Right. And I've shared this example with you. So when I brought my computer and files home and set them up on our dining room table, and then my son came home from college and all of his things were on the table and we..we had five monitors and two computers and phones and files and work. And by the second week it was just overwhelming and we realized we this….I certainly wouldn't want anybody to see that mess. And so when we talked about work day, that really made me rethink - okay, there is a better way to do this. Let's get organized and clean up our workspace, because the one of the first assignments is to take a picture of your workspace and your background and submit that to our program coordinators. And so to me, that was the the incentive. I needed to get organized and and be a better, more effective remote worker. I really hadn't considered that there might be a better way to do remote work. So it was a it was certainly a wake up call for me.

So I might ask all of you, I'm probably putting on the spot, but as students. We went through this. So we went through, basically, four weeks. We would log in, we met once with the rest of our classmates from all over the United States. So I think our class was the biggest they'd ever seen at 200 people. And certainly we've seen less... less classes or the enrollment has not been that great. As far as numbers. I mean, we've consistently seen between 50 and 60 students now but at the height of the pandemic when we first were thrown into the remote work, I believe it was about 200. So for me the work day and communication were probably the most impactful modules. I'm wondering what all of you might say really was an impactful piece of the remote work course? If you could share one thing that that really was important to you or made you think differently about how you could work remotely better?

Andrea: I to like the... the work day. So I'm a little bit unique in that I had been working remotely for a while already in my part time temporary position for NDSU Extension. And so I already had somewhat of a system, right or wrong, for working remotely and it was working for the most part, but I realized that I wasn't as effective as I could maybe be. And the thing I learned the most is I really had to set some boundaries. Because all of a sudden, just like you, I had three kids at home distance learning. So what was typically my workspace became someone else's workspace. So I had to to shift where I was working from a little bit and just communicating boundaries with everybody that was in the house at the time. Like there's times that you can come and communicate with me. And there's times where I'm on a call and I can't visit with you at the time. So I think that was my, my biggest takeaway and just I learned so much on the opportunities for virtual careers out there. I didn't realize that that there was so much so many available.

Marie:  I would agree with Andrea about the availability of remote work. I think that was a huge, huge eye opener for me. Another thing that I I really appreciated was having us understand some of the technology and programs that are out there. For like managing a project, so if you're doing remote work and you've got four or five team members and you're all across the world, literally you could be. How do you track it? How do you manage all the moving parts? And so there's the Trello program is the one that I used or was introduced and started to work with, and I had no idea that these programs were out there. Another one was around security, so you know VPNs. I mean, if I had heard that probably had heard it, but didn't really understand how you need to have secure networks, especially when you're in a public place and you're trying to do your remote work. And so some of those pieces of technology and programs that are out there that I was never aware of and now know more of, down to Google Docs. Right? And how do you manage all of the workflow and manage your Google Drive. So just a lot of great ways for us, either in remote work or here because I'm in,.... I still am in my office here at NDSU. But still learned a lot about how to be more effective because I still work remotely with everyone else throughout the state.

Macine: So being in the last of four people has its disadvantages, because a lot of the things that have been said were similar to my thoughts. I think back to the last few years of my, what I've been doing. And the last two years, I've been totally remotely, which I really appreciate, a lot of advantages to it. It's just less stressful and better use of my time. I have a set office space now in our loft that works out really good. I can come up with our loft and do what I need to do and I'm not interrupted by other things around the home and I think I should be doing other things. Previously to that, I would work in my office part of the week and ...and then on my kitchen table, or at my kitchen table the other part of the week. And that just when i think back, that was not good. And I've learned that with this program that it is good I have the space set up. So that work day, that has been was very beneficial. Also as Marie talked about, all the different tools that we learned about in this program and how they can help us do a better job with the work we do,I think, was very beneficial. I think about the project management tools like Trello, also the password management. I've been encouraged to do that for a while, by my son, but after this course, it's like, okay, I need to do this. I need to get something set up and I have set up a password management program. So I just think learning about all those tools there are so many out there and just being introduced to them with this program and then taking the opportunity to find one that I am comfortable with. It has…. has been beneficial.

Jodi: And I would agree with all of your comments. I learned so much as a participant going through the course. I, I just had no idea. 1.the extensive remote work opportunities for people and 2. the technology to help us do these things. And so it was certainly an eye opener for me, too. And you know my wish, as we've all discussed this, so what happens after we offer this course? People, North Dakotans, go through the register, they go through the course, which is one month. And I should mention too, that when you take the course, you're, you're on with students from all over the United States. And we meet, as we've stated, once a week over Zoom. And in that sharing and collaboration with people who are looking for work or know of other resources has been so interesting and I think very valuable for others that we have worked with in the state. 

So what's interesting is what's happened with Utah State and what had prompted this particular course is their hope to help employees and to reduce unemployment in rural areas. And I've learned that in many cases, there are several similarities between Utah and North Dakota and that it too, has very rural areas. And and they struggle with people being employed, folks who are underemployed and their initiative to support something like this and to work with employers in the state of Utah to offer remote work to professionals in rural areas has helped reduce the unemployment rate and you know for the return on investment, it has been pretty interesting. So I’m curious, so as we continue to offer this to individuals in North Dakota, um, who are one like us who perhaps weren't necessarily, I mean we were gainfully employed, we just had to learn to be better remotely, like many people. But also to help people who are not employed or in, you know, concerned about losing their work. What do you hope that North Dakota benefits or what are the gains by offering this course to North Dakotans when we decided to bring this to North Dakota. What did you hope would happen?

Jan, 21:30Andrea: My hopes there that we can provide opportunities for people to stay in North Dakota and for people to come back to North Dakota. I think for a long time and you discussed this already, that people had to move somewhere for a job and now this just gives us more options for for people to be employed for a major company that isn't located in North Dakota and still raise their family here. It provides opportunities for one spouse to maybe find a job in a rural community and the other spouse to work remotely so that they can can be there. We've learned that North Dakota has some advantages, we do have a fairly extensive fiber optics system in our state, to allow people to have the resources they need to work remotely. And through the course we've we've met lots of participants, some are looking at retirement and looking at maybe something they can do part time online going forward or just learning what some of their options are, from students that are just graduating from college and really looking at what opportunities are out there. So, my hopes are is that we are just able to help people make some of those connections and realize the opportunities there are in our state to work for companies in our state and maybe beyond.

Marie: And then I'd like to pick up on the entrepreneurship part of this. It would be great to have individuals who take this course and see that, I can, through maybe a network or some ideas that are talked about, because one of the parts that we do in this is near the end is to goal set, to set some goals for ourselves. And if you have had an idea for a business, and now you can do it remotely, and you have the network across the state, across the US and literally of the world. Maybe it will you know, get you to the point where you're going to say, I'm going to go for it. I'm going to work on this business. I'm going to start it and see where it leads. So I think that's another great opportunity that might have been in the back of your mind, but now, maybe you've got the tools, you've got the network and the motivation to go forward.

Jodi: And Macine, I know you have talked pretty extensively whenever we present to various groups about this, about the benefits of remote, remote work, could you touch on that briefly?

Macine: Sure, Jodi. Remote work is a win-win for many as there's so many benefits, whether it's the individual, the businesses, our communities. Some of the things we've already talked, as far as benefits for individuals, there's higher income possibilities, less stress, there can be a better work-life balance. There's a lot of, there may be depending on your employer, schedule flexibility, that extended work age. Again, like we talked about just for the family. It's maybe a better situation. As far as businesses. There's the opportunity for employee retention. If the employees are happy they are more likely to stay and then you can retain those good employees; possibility of lower overhead, you don't need all the office space; there's some economic stimulation, some environmental sustainability. And then for the communities, there's benefits for them also, it provides job creation so that reduces the local unemployment without the expense or expensive recruiting, new businesses because we all know that's hard in small communities. Sometimes it can strengthen the tax base because people are staying in the community so you have a larger population, so then that revenue stays in town. And then  what has been mentioned, it empowers families, they're working in a virtual office allows parents to have more family time, there's flexibility. It can reduce some of the childcare issues. So it can really empower families in a lot of different ways. So there's a lot of different benefits to remote work. And it's not just one person, it's all around, it's beneficial.

Jodi: Yeah those are great points Macine. Thank you for that. I think there's certainly some some eye-opening things that have come from this. At least I certainly have always felt like I needed to report somewhere to be efficient. And we we pretty much blew that theory out of the water. That you know, as Andrea said because of you know, the really efficient fiber network that we have in this state and our phone cooperatives to support that. We are able to work from anywhere, which has been, you know, a really wonderful opportunity for us so we can continue to do our work. So, thanks everyone for you sharing your experience and the information regarding the remote work certification program and what it can mean for the economy in the workforce for our state. If anybody would like more information, we still have some scholarships available for ...for the remote work certification course that we offer through Extension. And again, Macine, if you want to give that address again one more time where people can 1.) find out more information. The cost of the course is $249 but we do have some scholarships that are still available for just a small amount of people. So it makes the cost to register only $50. This is a bargain! And so, Macine, you want to share that website again.

Macine; Sure. Jodi. You can go to and then you can search ‘remote work’ or you could, on the end of that website, /lead/remotework. But the easiest is just going to 

Jodi: Great. Thanks, Macine. And if if you want to reach out to any of us. You can find our email addresses off the Extension website as well, and we'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about that. The course is not offered in December or July. So will we will be kicking things off again in January and if you know of people who are struggling or looking for remote work. I would encourage them, you know, to check this out. There's more information and registration information off of our Extension website. You know what, we, we really think it's important to try to find firms, organizations, businesses that have remote work, we know they are out there. And we have an educated professional workforce out in rural areas in our state. If we could make those connections, that's really what our, our goal here is. So if you are aware of those situations, please reach out to one of us, and we'd be happy make those connections. So thank you everyone. And now, I believe, Andrea has a, is going to talk to one of our participants who went through the course. So thanks everyone for your time.


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Susan Milender: Hi, My name is Sue Milender and I work for Barnes County Extension in Valley City. And I took the remote certification class and absolutely loved it! I took the course initially for professional development but, you know, it turned out to be so much more. Sure the format was user friendly and the content was applicable and efficient and effective regardless of if I was working in a face to face setting or if I was working remotely.  But contextually, it was spot on. So, I really think that we’re in the beginning of a work revolution. Yeah, the pandemic forced us to take a really good look at how well we were working and how we were working.You know the pandemic really moved us at warp speed to pivot to a virtual work platform. And I think now employers, as well as employees, are finding that the pros are really outweighing the cons. So i’ve got a story for you, I’ve got four young children, well let me rephrase that I’m older than I want to be, but I have four kids that are in their twenties. And they look at work entirely different than I looked at work in my twenties. So, my son was contemplating two jobs and he was vacillating between the two. And his sister who is just a little bit older gave him, I think some really wise millennial advice. She said, “Alex, you can choose a job where you want to live, or you can choose where you want to work, or where you want to live, and then find a job.”  And I think that’s what most young people are thinking now. They have a much better way of looking at balancing work and life together. So, I think that young people are really looking at their life, figuring out where they want to live and then plugging their passion or their job into that space. Remote work allows us to do that. It allows us to be passionate about a job or engage in a job and yet, love where we live. I think, even though I mentioned the millennials, remote work is for everybody. The millennials who are just starting out in a career, it’s for those that are at a mid-level career who have built up a lot of skills and now maybe they want to freelance in a side business or a side hustle maybe, as the millennials call it. It might be for parents who want to stay home with their kids. It might be for those in the sandwich generation that are staying home to take care of an elderly parent.  Or it might be for someone like me, who is getting ready to retire. You know I’m really looking at what my retirement years will look like and what I want to do and who I want to become in that phase of my life. You know I want my retirement to be purposeful. I want to be able to maybe volunteer, but I also like the option of perhaps supplementing my income and sharing my passions and sharing my expertise. And I also love to travel. And so wouldn’t it be great if I could take off and travel and yet, either volunteer or supplement my income with remote work. And I think a lot of people my age would be very very interested in that. So taking this class gave me the skills, it was very user-friendly, but it also allowed me to look ahead and see purpose in my retirement and where I was going. And it allowed me to put a plan in for these new opportunities to work remotely. So, I would highly encourage everybody, regardless of their age, regardless of their position, if they're an employer or an employee, to look into taking this course.  

Andrea: Good I’m glad you enjoyed it.  

Sue: I did.

Andrea: What was probably like your number one take-away from the course? 

Sue: You know I was visiting with several people just this morning about remote work. And I thought it was very interesting that they didn’t think that they could work remotely because they felt that they would be entirely distracted. And by taking this course, we not only learned tools for how you set up your office, but also learn how to manage your work day and how to manage the distractions and how to work with integrity. And I thought that was very valuable. 

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Julie Lamborn: Hello, I’m Julie Lamborn, I’m an older than average student probably. I really super enjoyed the NDSU Utah University classes. The ROI classes I believe they were called. Remote Online learning. I learned so much more than I expected. The classes were well presented. The information was particularly course-specific. I honestly felt like I was in a college class. We had plenty of time to do assignments and co-team with people. That was great to learn how to do that, especially at this time of online learning, online remote work. Learning how to communicate and use the different programs to communicate was super helpful and I thought they did a particularly good job. I would encourage anyone, no matter your age or your job right now, whatever your job is right now, this would be a super important job, skill to learn. To communicate and to learn the different programs for online courses. So take the class. You will enjoy it. You won't be sorry.    

Andrea: So what was your favorite part of the course? What was your biggest probably take-away? 

Julie:  My biggest takeaway was probably the size of the world. You know we all say to each other, how small the world has gotten because of the instant communication, you know the instant information you can get.  And I guess the idea of that. and then the learning of that are two different things. And so I learned how ….wow, I just learned so much. I just learned how small… you can connect with anybody anywhere instantly and still be really good at your job. Still really be a participant. I learned, I think I learned how big businesses are operated. In my little rural area, we tend to think of ourselves, and we are very isolated and…. But learning how big businesses ran, how much communication and interaction it takes was very eye opening for me.        

Jodi: Thanks for listening to Thriving on the Prairie. To subscribe to the podcast, and access a full transcript and resource links from this episode, visit You can find more resources for families and communities, at This has been a production of NDSU Extension, where we are extending knowledge and changing lives.

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