Growing up in Zoom Schools 📹 Transcend Newsletter XXVII

Build lasting connections in online classrooms.

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So much is lost when you put a class on Zoom. We have some ideas for how to bring personal and social learning experiences to online-first learning environments.

What memories come to mind when you think about your school or university years?

Often it’s falling in love for the first time, the identity struggles, making new friends, or losing old pals.

These personal and social learning experiences are the most formative education through primary, secondary school, and university. They are forged in playgrounds, hallways, and campuses, not in front of a whiteboard, 

Unfortunately, they are not forged on Zoom calls either

Personal and Social Learning in Online-First schools

As the world transitions to online-first learning, students have voiced their concerns: they feel like something is missing from their education, and they are right! Since students are not in the same space, they cannot organically develop personal and social learning experiences that shape their identities, personalities, and lifelong friendships. 

Scott Galloway brilliantly spoke about this issue: university campuses are unparalleled spaces for social and personal exploration, but how will increasingly remote learning experiences adapt to match this? 

This is particularly salient for US higher education, where students are paying a greater price for the experience. Universities are reluctant to drop prices for the incoming “online-first” academic year, but student demand will inevitably decrease. This will translate into hundreds of university closures. Programs that want to propose a compelling alternative to today’s university experience will need to provide formative experiences and student networks so students can “grow up in Zoom schools”. 

For too long, schools have taken a passive role in fostering personal and social learning experiences. Schools do not own the things students value most from their education. 

Where do we go from here?

It’s time schools start designing social and personal learning experiences into their curriculum for this new era of online learning. Since we are figuring out the best learning models for the online medium, why wouldn’t we figure out the personal and social growth experiences?

Here are some ways we may be able to design personal and social learning experiences.

Community curriculum

So far, schools and universities have done little work to match students based on their interests or personalities, or even building fun social experiences while attending class.

This may be an opportunity for schools to get involved in the students’ ability to connect with one another by creating “community curricula” that runs parallel to the academic curriculum (see how Aditi at Harvard is building community in her online class).

Hybrid models

This year’s school closures were unpredictable, and teachers and administrators didn’t have time to prepare well. However, next year will likely allow for more flexibility and planning. 

In this context, schools can connect students online and then provide spaces for them to collaborate or hang out in person (like our beloved Learning Gyms!) within the constraints of social distancing and distant students. 

Shift_Up’s Learning Gym in Detroit, now fully online these months

Designing dynamic virtual sessions

Lecturing was already pretty terrible, but imagine how bad it can be on a Zoom call.

When you use those same tools to create engaging and fun experiences, where the students are constantly active and engaged, the learning is almost a byproduct of the experience. We are slowly learning what works and what doesn’t. This period of school closures has already given us fantastic resources on how to make learning more active and apply experience design to learning!

Online community discovery

Online communities are very powerful tools for learning and connection. Most of my new friends in the last year came from Twitter. My gamer friends meet new people on Discord channels, and so on. 

Schools could help students discover these communities, which is the main bottleneck for people to engage with learning communities.

Interested in sewing? Here’s a subreddit community for it. Want to learn Irish dancing? Here’s a niche Facebook group in your town. Want to write short fiction stories? Here’s a corner of Twitter you may like. Want to pretend you are in an ant colony? No problem

What do you think? We’d love to get your thoughts: please leave a comment or reply to this email!

🏫Emerge Education published its second report on the future of University-Employer partnerships, with some great requests for startups and market analysis.

💻Coursera is supporting 1-2 hour-long Guided Projects after acquiring Rhyme, which our friend of Transcend Snehan Kekre is leading. Check out their 30+ new courses on machine learning and data projects.

👩‍💻Classes look very different when moved online: learn about how the learning infrastructure is changing from our friend Megan Cho.

📌The future of work has gotten here before we could anticipate it: Allison Baum dissects this new world of work that is digital, distributed, data-driven, dynamic, and diverse.

🍩This week’s brain candy (taking this section from the wonderful MakerMind newsletter): learn about Kind and Wicked learning environments and how one can generate better feedback loops for their learning journeys.

☀️We announced our latest cohort of Transcend Fellows and had our first Founder Lab yesterday. Learn more about these awesome 21 founders! Putting our ideas around online learning communities in action!

If you want more brain candy, check out our Transcend Reading Notion page and our Open Theses around the future of learning and work.

All the updated job opportunities can be found on our Job Board!

  1. Founding Frontend Engineer - Macro

  2. Program + Operations Manager - Experience Design Training

  3. Product Designer - Commsor

  4. Teachers (Multiple) - ZipHomeschool

Fill out this form if you are looking to hire or get hired

Thanks for reading another week! We’d love it if you could give us 2 minutes of your time to tell us how we can improve our newsletter!

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One last comment from Alberto regarding this last week.

We felt it was important to continue our writing cadence despite the recent events, and we understand some of our readers may be struggling this week.

We believe a strong education system and inclusive professional opportunities are keys to building communities where everyone can thrive regardless of class and race. We have a long way to go to achieve this.

In this newsletter, we talk a lot about education, technology, work, the future… we recognize class, race and gender must be a part of this analysis. It’s time we build, yes, but it’s also time we look at who is building and who they are building for. Only then will we let new voices participate in the futures we create. We apply this principle to our work and hope you help us improve where we may fall short in this endeavor. In the meantime, we’d love to have you join us in supporting those who are raising their voices this week and are being kept from doing so.