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Flipping the Classroom: How Highland Delivers Virtual CRM Training

Shifting our delivery opened the door to a blended learning experience for our clients

A person sits in front of a large monitor, looking at three people presenting on Zoom in grid view, Woman Having Virtual Meet

For over 10 years, Highland has helped hundreds of organizations turn their greatest uncertainties into opportunities for growth with software tools that move their businesses forward.

Our talented CRM team works with marketing, sales, service, and technology leaders who are responsible for initiating change in their organizations. We empower our clients with the tools to help increase efficiency, heighten team member and customer experience, and ultimately drive revenues.

“Training is a vital factor for empowering our CRM clients.”

After we build their CRM solutions, most of our clients request we train their users and their admins. Historically, we have met with clients on-site for in-depth training. This in-person instruction also gives us the opportunity to witness each client’s unique personalities and working styles and allows us extra insight into the reasons behind what we build.

Because of COVID-19, we had to pivot to entirely online training delivery for the first time.

While we knew our delivery would have to change, we wanted to provide the best training possible within this new medium. Our concerns around user engagement allowed us to expand what we requested of our users and resulted in an enhanced experience that involves take-home homework, pre-training outreach, and scenario-based training, all conducted virtually.


Have you ever thought about how you learn? What about where you learn best? Here I break down five essential questions for determining your ideal Learner Experience (LX).
The Learner Experience: 5 Questions to Help You Determine Your Ideal LX


Remember to do your homework

We create homework tasks for our clients and ask them to complete them outside of the training sessions. Then, we incorporate quizzes that are given during the virtual training. This allows us to keep users engaged during the training, and gauge whether they retained their learnings from their homework. Through this process, we’ve learned that the best amount of time for an online session is two hours.

While these practices were initially developed out of immediate necessity, they opened the door to a blended learning experience for our users.

Without knowing it, we were utilizing what others had already deemed, “Flipping the Classroom.” Using this methodology we’re able to fulfill the goal of training users to navigate and use the system, and instill excitement about the benefits—including increased productivity and profitability—they can gain through leveraging their CRM.

A person sits at a table writing in front of a laptop. They're wearing headphones and are looking down at a notebook.

A person sits at a table writing in front of a laptop | Image purchased from Shutterstock Tech

Build excitement through pre-training marketing

Enthusiasm and familiarity can be built before users even log in to their CRM. By sending emails that show the progress of the build and hyping up what features they’ll be gaining (such as mobile), we subtly familiarize clients with the terminology and look of the CRM before the “official” training begins.

We develop and dispatch a prerequisite set of emails that list a set of tasks the users will need to complete prior to attending the training. These tasks will cover logging into the system, downloading the app, becoming familiar with the terminology, and learning to navigate the CRM. By including these activities before the training begins, the training itself can remain focused on how they will actually use the system on a daily basis.

Continue building skills through daily assignments

We continue to assign homework every day to reinforce the mechanics of using the system and to introduce new skills for the next day. Some of these daily assignments have included:

  • Generating a new record and relating it to another record

  • Creating a filter

  • Learning to search the system efficiently

  • Practicing creating records that build on the current day’s tasks

Anything new that is introduced as a daily assignment will be covered as part of their scenario-based training the next day. This homework also serves as additional documentation for the users to refer back to once training is complete.

A Zoom screen showing 15 participants with their videos on, showing their faces as they participate in a CRM Training.

Screenshot from a virtual Highland CRM Training | Image used with permission

“What’s in it for me?” Scenario-based training

How do we engage users who are asked to take days away from their job to learn a system that may not seem important to them at the time? We prioritize scenario-based training that shows users how they will benefit from the CRM going forward. To accurately represent what users will be doing from day-to-day, we develop scenario-based training in collaboration with the stakeholders.

For example, we’ll assign a Lead to the user, and instruct them to use the system to assess and work the lead (in a controlled environment). We show users how they can update records, collaborate with colleagues, store information, and ultimately convert the Lead and gain new business. Because we have leveraged homework and pre-training assignments to teach the technical parts of the training, we have generated time to focus together on real-world scenarios that put into practice what the user’s learnings from the previous sessions, as well as the take-home work.

Graph of the 'Forgetting Curve' with Memory on the Y axis and Time Remembered (in Days) on the X axis, showing a down curve.

The Forgetting Curve Graph via LearnUpon

Repeat, review, retain.

The sad reality is that if users don’t immediately implement what they have learned in the training, they will rapidly forget what they’ve been taught.

“Learners will rapidly lose their memory of learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless the information is consciously reviewed. Some studies suggest that humans forget approx 50% of new information within an hour of learning it. That goes up to an average of 70% within 24 hours.”
- Learn Upon: 5 Ways to Challenge the Forgetting Curve

So: how do we work against the “Forgetting Curve” and help our users get the most out of the training?

The homework assignments and presentations used during the training are a good start. Users already have built-in resources found in the notes from their official training assignments. We can build upon that comprehension by populating the clients' Sugar Knowledge Base with an FAQ section or a “How Do I….?” section. Both of these options offer a quick resource for them to find answers.

Additionally, we provide links to Highland’s YouTube channel that will increasingly be populated with the same “How Do I…?” features in small video bites. Lastly, we record and archive the training for our clients in a space they can retrieve for future reference. These can also be beneficial for our clients in the future on-boarding of new users.

A Zoom screen showing 15 smiling participants with their videos on, showing their faces as they participate in a CRM Training

Screenshot from a virtual Highland CRM Training | Image used with permission

Embracing a blended learning experience

While we were initially compelled to shift our delivery out of necessity, we’ve encountered new methodologies that may not have been realized without the rise of COVID-19 and the need to ‘Flip.’ Through homework, pre-training marketing, scenario-based training, and a focus on retention, our users are confident in their ability to utilize the software tools that drive their business forward.

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