Trust, Time & Technology - The secrets of effective virtual communication and collaboration

Course offered by: Prof. Dr. Katrin Winkler
Offering University: HAW Kempten
Course Language: English
Subject Area: Key Skills Free of Charge
Average Workload: 10 Hours Free of Charge Enrol
Picture Credits: Xara Beitinger

What awaits you in this course?

Globalisation, digitalization and the COVID-19 pandemic are steadily contributing to the rising presence of virtual work. However, virtual or remote work is inherently different than working in an office and requires a different set of skills to master, both as a remote worker or as a manager of remote team members.

This course looks at how to communicate in an engaging and motivating manner in our digital world, and how virtual collaboration and networking is enabled by connecting people and technology. We look at which competencies are required for such effective connectedness, those to build mutual trust and those to provide psychological safety across remote teams.

By combining theory and practical application, the course creators share valuable and highly applicable know-how. You will be able to progress and complete the course at your own pace, learning through problem-based videos, interactive exercises, games and expert insights. You will also learn why trust, time and technology are the secrets in a virtual world.

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What can you learn in this course?

Participants of this course will be able to:

  • understand concepts important for virtual communication and virtual collaboration
  • know the components and skills needed to communicate and collaborate successfully
  • improve your own virtual collaboration and communication and how to overcome existing challenges
  • use digital tools for virtual communication and collaboration
  • recognise virtual communication and collaboration as vital competencies and look to share these with others

Overall, the course goal is also to make learning applicable to the business world and fun!


Virtual teams are becoming increasingly important in today’s fast-paced, digitally interlinked and ever-changing world. As such, the topics of virtual communication and virtual collaboration, alongside the use of appropriate digital technology, are of interest to businesses, managers and employees. This course looks at key subject areas; the skills for excellent communications in the digital world (communication, digital & media competencies); how virtual collaborations are enabled by effective teamwork and networking; considerations for managing virtual teams (new expectations, new competencies and providing psychological safety); the application of technologies as the essential enabler. The course, covering 10 interactive chapters, includes multi-didactic elements for self-directed learning.

This first chapter introduces the topic by examining the changing world, both business and social, and the impact on the workplace and ways of working. The key drivers of globalisation and digital transformation are explored, and the COVID-19 pandemic considered for both current impact as well as long term implications. Participants will also be challenged to see change as the norm and asked to reflect on embracing change for strategic and personal renewal.

Parallel to the increase in digital transformation, the importance of virtual teams is also increasing. This chapter focuses on the definition and benefits virtual teams, how high performance is maintained and in which corporate context do virtual teams play a role nowadays? We will explore the risks of distance and how to take active steps to build better relationships. Participants will be asked to engage in an interactive scenario to learn about the factors that connect us as virtual teams and connect us to the business.

There are many communication models which explain the complexity of communication and we use this chapter to highlight the theory of communication as a competency and communication as a process with goals, steps and success criteria. The 5 axioms of communication (Paul Watzlawick) are also introduced to examine why communication goes wrong and how all communication, but especially virtual communication required trust. The psychology of trust is thus explored and interactive scenario learning again applied to connect communication, commitment and trust.

The digitisation of the world of work is already having a massive impact today and will continue to challenge in the future. Not only must companies become agile to survive technological change, employees and managers must develop in order to keep up with digitisation. But what skills do they need? What does it mean to be digitally competent? The European Reference Framework for Digital Literacy, developed on behalf of the European Commission, which is part of this chapter, provides answers to these questions. The term "Media competence" is also introduced at this point. According to Dieter Baacke, educational scientist, media literacy is a crucial skill to learn for enhanced performance and a prerequisite for an adequate understanding of communication tools. Baacke proposed different dimensions in order to properly capture the meaning of media competence and Baacke's founding ideas are of central importance in today's pedagogical debate on the use of digital communication and collaboration tools. These aspects are addressed in this chapter and taken further via the use of communication models (AIDA & BRIEF), to demonstrate content creation.

In this chapter we take a practical look at overcoming barriers to virtual communication in a specific scenario - running effective virtual meetings. Other challenges arise however in different settings due to distance reducing direct influence. To connect with others and maintain effective influence despite distance, it is vital to understand three different levels of virtual communication, the goals and the significance of planning and implementing accordingly. This chapter introduces our framework of virtual relationship building, focused on one-to-one communication; virtual collaboration, teamwork and group communications; and virtual reach, communication to the wider organization. All require adaptive communication and the DISC methodology is used in interactive learning to stress this point.

Based on the previously introduced framework, this chapter focuses on the one-to-one communication. To highlight the importance of direct, personal exchange, synchronous and asynchronous communication is defined and evaluated. How to connect and build virtual relationships is explained by leveraging emotional intelligence (Daniel Goleman) to create genuine dialogue and empathetic communication. Practical application then looks at how to prepare for virtual one-to-ones with remote employees and participants are invited to test their own perspective on communication using the “four-sides model” from Friedemann Schulz von Thun.

The next level of our communication framework looks at group communication, starting from building team identity and spirit. Such cohesion is essential in an online world, as well as face-to-face, as good teamwork leads to achievement of shared goals. However, communication problems can occur in any group constellation and even one individual lacking the willingness to make an effort within the group can cause difficulties. Issues more specific to virtual teams include “lurking” and “flaming” due to the anonymity of virtual spaces. How such individuals behave and how to handle such group phenomena are included in this chapter to ensure active participation and inclusion. Furthermore, the benefits of networking and online communities are evaluated, including how to build digital networks.

This chapter specifically gives an insight into virtual team leadership to ensure managers of remote workers understand their added responsibilities towards distant employees. We consider what is different regarding Malik’s management principles, tasks and tools in the virtual world. New manager and employee competencies are explored to ensure ability to lead and thrive, despite the distance. Ensuring the human factor is not neglected, psychological safety is defined and how this is created for teams by managers. Cultural impacts are also touched upon for global manager effectiveness. Finally, participants can discover how managers balance trust and control via interactive scenario learning.

This final level of our communication framework looks at reaching wider audiences within an organization and beyond, and focus is more on technically supported asynchronous communication and use of different media. We address examples of tools and apps and how, when and why to use them. At the same time, with the plethora of digital technologies available we do not recommend specific tools but encourage participants to do their own tool-research. The broader business context is however stressed, and business use of social media considered alongside concepts of project management tools, knowledge management tools, ITC and systems integration.

The final chapter summarises the most important points on virtual communication and collaboration and is intended to bring out the participants' knowledge on the specifics of virtual communication and collaboration through appropriate reflection tasks. This begins with a review of how to create an effective virtual working environment, including technology, space and routines. How to behave online is also included in exercises for developing a personal brand and digital image. Concluding reflections consider how to apply all the tools, skills, behaviours and mind set for impactful virtual communication and collaboration.

Course offered by

Prof. Dr. Katrin Winkler, head of the Institute for Digital Learning and Teaching at the University of Applied Sciences (UAS) Kempten, is both academic professor and has many years’ experience leading international teams and consulting for leaders around the world. This insight on effective leadership and how to motivate and inspire people is shared in this open course.

Further authors

Nicola Bramwell, from the Institute for Digital Learning and Teaching at UAS Kempten, is a business leader with 20+ years’ experience in complex industries. Expertise she brings includes business strategy, innovative leadership, change management and effective communication.

Xara Beitinger, from the Institute for Digital Learning and Teaching at UAS Kempten, is an international business and human resources management graduate with extended knowledge on virtual teamwork, collaboration and communication.

Target group

This course is available free of charge for interested in developing a digital mindset and setting yourself up for successful communication and collaboration in a virtual context in the business world. The theoretical content is set at a mid-manager/ master’s level, yet all models and ideas are well explained and applicable in any work or study environment.

Confirmation of participation

Both badges and a certificate are available to recognise progress and completion of this course. Electronic badges are awarded as you work your way through the chapters. For completing every chapter from 1-10 you will receive 1 Badge. To receive the Final “course completion badge” you must collect all Badges. This will gain you access to the “Certificate of Achievement”, which once accessible, will appear in the “Badges” section of the course, ready to download.


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virtual, communication, collaboration, trust, time, technology, mindset, leadership, digital, teams