Why Zoom may not be the best choice for your workshop and alternatives to try

Recently I’ve been approached by different organisations wondering how to transition their face-to-face programs to online courses and workshops in the face of COVID-19. 

Here is a 5-step method that I’ve found useful to design impactful online courses. This method is especially helpful if you are targeting underprivileged communities and people who may not have very good internet access.

I’ve started my career as the director of an online education centre in France. Our 10,000+ students were preparing for national exams to become hairdressers or estheticians. My biggest pride was that we managed to improve the graduation ratio by implementing new e-learning tools and increasing the support they were receiving.

 I like to say that if you can learn how to cut hair online, you can basically learn anything.

Two years ago, I founded Uplifters which is a non-profit organisation empowering underprivileged communities with online education and peer support. We offer a free three-week money management and personal growth online course to migrant domestic workers in Asia. Our challenge is to make online education truly accessible to women who own only a simple smartphone, have no WiFi, little digital literacy (no email address) and very limited time off. We started with twenty students a month in the first session and we are now enrolling more than 200 per month. 

 Here is what I have learnt along the way. 

  First, figure out how your audience accesses the Internet and their digital literacy. 

  • How is their Internet connection quality? 
  • What is the device they use? Mobile, tablet, laptop?
  • Do they have storage on their devices?
  • How flexible are their schedules? 
  • How long can they spend online in a quiet space without being interrupted?
  • Do they have and use email addresses; alternatively social media platforms? 
  • Do they know how to download apps? Do they have enough storage for them on their phones?

(Just take a quick poll to make informed decisions) 

 2. Accordingly select the different tools you can use, taking into account bandwidth and schedule flexibility. 

 Make sure the tools you offer are:

  1. Accessible to your audience (for example videos require a good internet connection). 
  2. Flexible enough to meet their needs (three-hour online meetings on Zoom are not for everyone). More information on low-bandwidth versus high bandwidth tools are in this article.

 A special note on tools accessible through emails only. We tend to assume most people know how to use emails and access their mailbox easily however this is NOT the case. 

 3. Now, take the time to think about the best way to best deliver your knowledge depending on which tools are adapted to your audience.

Once you know what kind of tools you can use, think about how you will use them. 

It is well known that lecture-style classes are not the best way to teach, even in real life. So imagine when someone is not even having the pressure of being looked at in a classroom.

As the idiom says “Tell me and I will forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn”. Neurosciences have recently shown that active learning is indeed more beneficial because it involves a greater number of neural connections, stimulating a variety of areas of the brain and promoting memory. Interacting with peers has been shown to be very efficient to stimulate learning. Teaching somebody what you are learning is actually a very effective way to deeply understand it and remember it.

Therefore avoid online lectures, by all means, otherwise, you risk losing your audience attention pretty quickly. 

To help you do so, take the time to list your objectives, learning objectives and also your broader objectives like team building, building a sense of ownership, etc.

 Let me share with you what we do at Uplifters to give you some ideas. We are targeting migrant domestic workers in South-East Asia. Our core signature program is a three-week course delivered through a Facebook chatbot on a daily basis. Students are supported in a group chat of ten people that is facilitated by a team leader, alumni trained to support her peers. The course is hosted on an online education platform but from a student’s perspective, you never leave Facebook messenger. This is necessary as most don’t use emails or internet browsers and have no storage on their phones to download additional apps. They share their “exercises” (we call them “challenges”) and participate in the discussions with their peers in their class chat when they can during the day. It’s totally asynchronous.

This program is designed to scale while guaranteeing impact but does not allow for a lot of interactions between students and experts (that would not be scalable nor realistic to ask them to connect regularly for scheduled video conferences with teachers).

We want to offer our most committed team leaders additional learning opportunities and more interactions with our office team. There are about thirty team leaders, located in either Hong Kong or Singapore so our initial plan was to organise three face-to-face workshops in each country throughout the year. We have built a pool of experts to share their knowledge during these seminars.

Of course, we had to think of an alternative because of COVID-19. For these workshops, we don’t have the same constraints. There are not that many members so we can afford to explain to them one by one how to use the tools and check beforehand what their availability is. One of our objectives is to keep building their sense of ownership towards Uplifters and have an interaction that goes beyond chat messages.  So we will transition this one-day seminar to a one-week online seminar with material accessible asynchronously and scheduled short meetups together on video-conferences to discuss with the experts and have online team-building activities.

You will find good ideas on how to actually use Zoom in an interactive way in this article by Seth Godin. 

To sum up: mix and match tools to recreate the kind of atmosphere you want in your regular classroom; make the most of asynchronous activities and keep live interactions short and as entertaining and engaging as possible. 

4. The final question (not the first) is to compare available tools and platforms or develop a tailor-made one.

My two cents: this is no longer about technology. There are tons of affordable options. Don’t make the mistake to develop your own e-learning platform. Especially if you are a newbie, select one of the very best all-in-one stop platforms to host your content or even just a google website and zoom (or a similar tool) if you need to do videos. Your added value is not on the platform but in how you deliver your content (course design) and support your audience. 

 5. Test and learn

Let your audience know this is new to you and you are learning yourself as well. Accept the possibility of failure and be open-minded to change the way you do things. This is true in all times but even more when dealing with innovation. As we built Uplifters, we have realised that small incremental changes were working better than trying to build it “right” from the first day.

Moreover, don’t forget to assess yourself even if all seems to work. It seems these arrangements are exceptional but treat them as an opportunity to learn with the same feedback loop system you would have for your regular classes.

 Bonus: how do you market or position it compared with your real-life workshops?

There are 3 kinds of online courses:

  1. Knowledge only (videos, text lessons, quizzes)
  2. Knowledge + interaction with peers
  3. Knowledge + coaching (with or without interaction with peers)

 Your price (and completion ratio/impact) will depend on how you position yourself in between these three options.

 What are the challenges you are facing while designing your online course? Please comment, I will try my best to reply!

 A few words about Uplifters

Uplifters is a non-profit organisation registered in Hong Kong. Our mission is to empower vulnerable women in Hong Kong and Singapore with online education and peer support. We offer a free online course on money management and personal growth that is tailor-made for migrant domestic workers in South-East Asia. 

There are more than three million migrant domestic workers in South East Asia and the Middle East. Despite spending years abroad trying to make money and being far away from their families and children, most domestic workers go back to their home countries to the same situation or worse off than when they left. They face tremendous financial pressure and are victims of unethical migration corridors leaving them caught in debt cycles. 

Our mission at Uplifters is to empower them with the community support and the financial and personal development knowledge necessary to make their migration successful. Currently, 1,500 students (mostly Filipino and Indonesian) have enrolled in our courses since our launch two years ago and we expect 1,400 more by the end of 2020. 

What’s unique about us is that Uplifters is a truly community-based organisation. Our students join class chats to discuss the lessons with their peers. These discussions are facilitated by alumni domestic workers who went through our “train the trainers” online program. Not only does it motivate them to complete the course, but it also guarantees that knowledge is transformed into action, hence making our programs both scalable and impactful. We have a 100% recommendation rate among our alumni. 97% said that it helped them reach their financial goals and 79% said our course transformed their lives. You can get a better sense of who they are and what we do by looking at our website, and Facebook page.

Because of the lack of funding due to the COVID-19 crisis, we are currently doing a crowdfunding campaign. Our objective is to raise USD $15,000 by May 10th. Many countries are giving subsidies if you feel as if you don’t depend on it, we would greatly appreciate it if you could consider donating it to us. More about it here

“Do things that your future self will thank you for.”

Today meet our Diamond Team Leader, Maria Cristina Eugenio or M’jay as she is fondly called.

Team Leaders are Uplifters alumni supporting new students throughout their online courses.

M’jay is from the province of Pangasinan in the Philippines. She has been working in Singapore since 2001.

Get to know her more in this interview:

“I am the eldest among 5 siblings. We did not come from a privileged family, life was tough. I got married at an early age and did not get along with my estranged husband. I decided to work abroad because I thought it was much better than working in my homeland where a basic salary was not enough to put food on the table. I kept on wondering what kind of future awaited me! I am blessed to have a 22 year old son. He is an aircraft mechanic and I am so proud of him. My son is my pride and inspiration.

In my free time, I love writing recipes and reading books. They help me to destress and relax. I am grateful to a friend of mine who influenced me to read the “Power of Reading.” Since then, collecting books became my hobby. Robert T. Kiyosaki really inspired me with his book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” I was so amazed with his explanation of how money works for the rich, poor and the middle class. He was the reason why I fully understood how investments work.

Improving and enhancing myself is important to me. I took some courses before as I wanted to prove that I have something to be proud of. A friend of mine introduced Uplifters to me and I decided to try it. It was one of the best decisions of my life. Uplifters shaped me into who I am today. It taught me the value of today and the benefits of tomorrow. Uplifters taught me the formula of life and how to slow down and appreciate life. It taught me how to differentiate the power of a dreamer and how to make your dreams happen. Because of that, I have a clear vision of the finish line that I want to reach and I am taking steps to achieve it. I am saving for my emergency fund and investing at the same time. I am also looking for a great opportunity to buy property in the Philippines.

I love being a team leader as I can see the potential of each of my students. I am happy when they seize a great opportunity to grow and learn. Seeing them get their certificates after they finished the course has been rewarding to me as well. I feel I made an impact when they say they have become a better version of themselves. I became a living instrument to change one’s life. That’s all that matters to me as a team leader. I’m happy that I have become closer to my Dare to Dream batch. We’ve developed a strong bond with each other. We take time to catch up, share ideas and join workshops if we have the chance.

My greatest advise to my fellow domestic workers is to educate yourself about financial literacy while you are still young. Teach your family how to manage money wisely. Save as much as you can. What matters is how much you save, not how much you earn. As Uplifters taught us, do things that your future self will thank you for.”

Congratulations to our 2019 “Make it Happen” students

Big round of applause to our students who completed their “Make it Happen” online course and received their certificates. For 6 months they have worked towards reaching their personal and financial life goals. Many thanks to their team leaders who supported them throughout their journey!

Amirotul Lutfiyah

Andria Mejala

Angeline Sealsa

Ayu Sari

Babylyn Abasa

Carolyn Cacayan

Catherine S. Alimagno

Cecile Flores

Chelamy Recomes

Dina Agustin

Donna Rita Sadio

Edna Remasog

Efresenia Francis

Elvira Mosada

Endah Purnamasari

Elvira Cunanan

Evelyn Obillo

Fidelisa Delima

Freda Payod

Gegerma Montero

Gerie Mae Asuelo

Gigi Lingao Blanco

Glenda Lomabong

Haryanti Mawanto

Inocencia Zerrudo

Janelyn Dupingay

Janelyn Magtagad

Jhoan Laureano

Joahnna Tolosa

Jo Anne Dell Cuna

Josephine Brillantes

Juliet Madrillo

Juliet Rosiana

Julieta Laylo

Lea Jean Hernandez

Levy Novero

Liza Natividad

Lorna Ferolino

Lovely Erezo

Lyra May

Maria Cristina Eugenio

Maria Luisa Angupa

Maria Reyna Astellero

Maryan Caronan Salvoro

Mary Anne C. Casamina

Mary Grace Arsenal

Mary June Arendain

Marylin Lavilla

May Cristobal

Maylene Maylas

Melanie Lim -ang

Michelle Malaga

Michelle Sanguenza

Minerva Melecotones

Nanette Bernabe

Nelie Bautista Olino

Parida Lutfi Tauzirie

Rachelle Panfilo

Relita F. Pascua

Richel Depol

Rubi Yanti

Siti Mujuati

Suki Yahkie

Sulis Utami

Sunshine Rosemary

Syarifitriyah rahmani

Tae Tae Margaret

Tina Esmas

Happy International Migrant Workers Day!

“Being a migrant worker is not something I dreamt of to be, but it’s something I am proud to be.”

For the International Migrant Workers Day, we asked our community what makes them happy despite the hardships they face!

We created a giant smile with their photos and you can read more below about what makes them smile in their migration journeys.

Read more of their reasons to smile below:
Having achieved some of my goals in my last 5 years ♥️ Being a mother makes me smile & seeing my kids grow up even from a distance ♥️ Being treated well by my employer and treated as one of their family ♥️ Remembering my dreams and planning for them ♥️ Being the reason for someone else’s smile today! ♥️ Remembering how much I’ve grown in the last 5 years as a FDW ♥️When hard work which is sweat becomes sweet ♥️Knowing that I’m also empowering fellow women makes me smile ♥️ Being able to meet different people from different countries and seeing places I’d never thought I would see ♥️ Knowing that my daughter and my son are doing well in their studies ♥️ The opportunity to grow personally and becoming a better version of me ♥️Knowing what I’ve done so far, the difficulties I’ve overcome and everything I’ve learnt ♥️ Smiling is a good deed ♥️ My job as a care worker ♥️ Smiling is worshipping too ♥️ Smile is the best medicine for stress ♥️A simple smile can make everyone happy ♥️ Smiling makes you feel better ♥️ Having a good employer, living in a good country, having family and friends ♥️ My daughter is the reason why I keep smiling despite all the struggles being OFW ♥️ Being a proud mother to my 3 daughters ♥️ My smile is one of my best assets ♥️I want to inspire my fellow migrant workers to use their smile as a tool to fight stress at work ♥️ My employer says my smile gives them a beautiful start to the day ♥️ Hearing my mom’s voice very happy and excited as her wish will be granted ♥️I smile the most when talking to my family especially my grandchildren ♥️ Whenever I help anyone in need it makes me smile with joy ♥️ I smile every day because I am working safe in Singapore ♥️Being surrounded by happy people ♥️Gratefulness for being able to work as a migrant worker and contributing a lot to my home country ♥️ Sustaining my family’s needs and boosting the economy in my country ♥️ Being a domestic worker helps us create our dreams Don’t let your dream disappear because your employers wake u up ♥️ Smiling is my best pain reliever ♥️ Smile is the best way to overcome tension ♥️ When you smile to everyone, it will lift their spirits too so keep on smiling ♥️ Smiling everyday helps me take all my worries away ♥️ Smiling is worshipping ♥️ Thanks to Uplifters I’ve dared to dream to have a better life ♥️ Being healthy so I can continue to support my family and reach my future dream… ♥️ Smile for the hard work you’ve done for your loved ones back home, but don’t forget to work for your own goal ♥️ Smile and the whole world will smile with you! ♥️ Being a migrant worker is not something I dreamt of to be, but it’s something I am proud to be ♥️

Become an uplifter too!
With only 80 HKD a month, you can support courageous women like them in building the lives they want for themselves. We offer free money management and personal development online courses to domestic workers.
https://uplifters-edu.org/donate/

Ayu in her journey of financial independence, self-discovery and personal growth

Ayu at Uplifters's 1st year anniversary
Ayu at Uplifters’s 1st year anniversary

Today meet Ayu, one of our very 1st students who pilot-tested our 1st program, and now one of our Diamond team leaders who’s facilitated 10 sessions of “Dare to Dream”, Uplifters 3-week signature online course on money management and personal growth.  She’s a 47 years old Indonesian domestic worker in Singapore, and mom to two young adults. 

She was aware of Uplifters as she had met Uplifters’ Founder Marie when she was working at Aidha in Singapore, a non-profit organisation which helps foreign domestic workers and low-income Singaporean women achieve economic independence through financial education, wealth creation and entrepreneurship.

“I joined Uplifters almost 2 years ago and together with Aidha,it has helped me achieve a goal each year

– The 1st year my achievement was saving for my mom’s pilgrimage in UEA for her 74 years old present. 

– The 2nd year I bought my own piece of land. 

Ayu's dream tree house
Ayu’s dream tree house

This coming 3rd year I plan to build a small tree house on my land, with a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen. That’s all I need. I don’t see the point of big houses as they cost you more money, but also time and energy to clean and take care of them!

I’m sharing this in the hope of inspiring more domestic workers to be successful by improving their financial knowledge. I really recommend this course because it teaches you important tools to fix the financial issues every family has. It’s a free and simple way to learn budgeting. I even teach it to my boss’s kids and they are very happy to learn about it because it teaches them that if we work hard when we are young, we’ll enjoy the fruit of our work when we retire and we won’t need to worry anymore

What’s also unique about Uplifters are the class chats where students can share their difficulties and motivate each other without fear of being judged. As a team leader I’ve also learnt how to encourage people to work together as a team. 

Ayu on her personal growth journeyManaging your mind and feelings is important too and helps you grow as a person.

Thanks to Uplifters “Dare to Dream” course I discovered a lot about myself: who I am and how can I control my mind to be in a more positive place. When you’re on a positive track, it helps you see things from a different perspective.

Life as a domestic worker is not easy and even if we look happy, it’s sometimes just a cover, as we often hide our struggles. It is hard to adjust to new employers demands whilst missing your own family.  And when we’re sick nobody really cares, the job still needs to be done, so we have to be physically and mentally strong.” 

This constant need to carry on and keep on growing despite the hardships thrown at you is captured beautifully by Ayu in this wonderful tree analogy: 

Tree“I was growing like a tree but my branches were always cut down by people around me. But I kept on growing to get more fruit to share with people in need. I got bigger but every so often my fruits, leaves and branches were chopped away again. But thankfully I know my roots are deep in the ground and help me to become strong and grow again.”


Discover more about Ayu in this video.

The message of a woman who started living life on her own terms.

Today, meet Jhoan, a 33 year old single Filipino domestic worker in Hong Kong. Jhoan is one of our precious team leaders. She helps new students throughout their online courses at Uplifters. She presents herself as a very outgoing and optimistic person who loves to learn news things, read books and explore new horizons.

“I came to Hong Kong because I left a toxic relationship with my husband in the Philippines. I came here to make myself complete again as an independent woman. I have been working in Hong Kong as a domestic worker for two and half years now. It is the first time I have worked abroad.
It’s hard to be overseas – you don’t know anyone and are a complete stranger in a country. The long working hours were really difficult to handle at first. I was exhausted and lost a lot of weight but even with all those barriers, I knew that it was good for me to be here because there are lots of opportunities for growing personally and professionally. 


The funny thing is, I discovered Uplifters when I was browsing the internet looking for a group which I could join to learn more and empower myself.
Thanks to Uplifters’ ‘Dare to Dream’ financial course, I’m now able to save 20% of my salary and start to build my house in the Philippines. I’m hoping to achieve what is on my “Dream board” : my main objective is to build my own house, have my own business and travel as much as I can so financial stability is a must. I have two siblings and my parents are still working so I don’t have to support anyone. I just send some money when needed.
Join this course! I believe every young woman should get financially educated and plan for her future.

The other good thing with this course is that I dared myself to develop new skills: I really love photography and I wanted to improve my photography skills by learning new techniques. So, I started searching on the internet for some photography classes and it became my new hobby.
I think that the Dare to Dream course changed my personality in a good way and also my relationships with others, for example with my employers: I was very shy with them at first but now I’m more open and we talk about my hobbies and my online course. They support me with what I’m doing right now and said they appreciate that I’m doing things I love during my days off.


Now I’m an Uplifters Team Leader – it’s super challenging for me because I have a lot of work to do and sometimes the students are not as active as expected. But, I keep on going and try to motivate them as much as I can and help them when they need it. I’m always happy to see the students’ success and certifications despite their busy schedules. They reach their goals and will be able to manage their lives and feel fulfilled themselves.

My message for everyone : never give up on your dreams. You too, you can be a strong and independent woman.