• Carol Wong

My DT Remote Coaching Experience

I have just completed my remote coaching of design thinking on Monday, 10 Aug (pending one last participant of whom I am scheduling to coach her alone for the final session - special treatment). It was my inaugural remote coaching (I mean literal coaching remotely trying to create an in-person learning experience for my participants virtually via Zoom).

Given that it is remote coaching of the course, I have modified the coaching approach to more participant-led or self-directed learning. I scheduled a one-hour interactive session with my participants to provide assignment instructions and review their assignments. I felt that it would be challenging to expect screen time for more than two hours (provided overrun buffer). I worked out a five-week design thinking remote coaching course based on a two-day in-person design thinking workshop for a class size of 20 participants.

In reality, I learned the following:

1. Ideal class size

For remote coaching, the optimum class size is up to five participants. I can still coach a class of a maximum of ten participants by having two break-out rooms in the Zoom. The small remote class size will optimize coaching because it is unlike in-person class, as the coach, I was not able to read the facial expression or body language via Zoom. The majority of the participants (of large class size) would not turn on their video camera. Furthermore, it would not be possible to make an adequate assessment of participant learning. Instead of interpreting facial expressions or body language, I needed to find ways to get an assurance of the learning outcomes expected of each participant. I like to be able to engage each participant to share and learn more about each other.


I was ambitious that I was able to deliver what I required the participants to learn and work on their assignments on their own. I have allocated one-hour for each class of remote coaching. I found out that this was not achievable within one hour. I ended up remote coaching each class (large and small class size) for more than one hour (mostly two hours). It was important to me to review the participant assignments and to get them started working on their assigned activities during the remote coaching classes. One of my participants has suggested scheduling additional classes to include mid-week check-in classes.

3.Model behaviors

Design thinking involves ways of working, mindsets, and the physical environment. I was not able to adequately model these behaviors during remote coaching. I tried to demonstrate some ways of working and mindsets by using online collaborative tools (such as Miro Board). I often asked the participants to imagine themselves working on the activities in a physical environment. I would illustrate how the physical environment would look like and what materials would be required. I need to find a way to improve this to enhance learning effectiveness (e.g.: how might I enable cross-class or cross-team sharing and learning from each other).

4.Getting outside the building

One of the steps of the design thinking process is to get outside the building to conduct empathy fieldwork and testing. Some of my participants were able to get outside the building and worked in teams to complete this activity. Unfortunately, one of my international participants was still in a lockdown situation. He was not able to get outside of his house to complete this activity. He was resourceful and found a way to conduct remote empathy interviews and testing with people (unknown to him and referred by his wife). Although remote empathy interviews and testing give a different learning experience, this important step of design thinking can be made possible in remote coaching. I need to find a way to enhance the learning experience for remote empathy fieldwork.


I like all the activities and assignments that were well organized and documented by the participants in remote coaching of design thinking. Furthermore, all participants were able to reflect and capture their learnings. All documentation was stored digitally without the use of stickie notes and flipcharts (paperless and full digital). The digitalization of the design thinking activities is one key takeaway from this remote coaching experience.

In conclusion, I find remote coaching requires 2-3 times more effort than in-person coaching. In-person coaching of design thinking remains a preferred approach to learn and apply design thinking in a more engaging manner. Of course, I will continue to learn and improve the remote coaching of design thinking so that I could extend such learning opportunities to more people.

Finally, I like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere appreciation to my inaugural class participants for their commitment and feedback throughout their learning journey.

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