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Creating Connections in an Isolated World

This week we started a NEW virtual session of our Level 1 Gamification Surveyor Certification. Students in this session are logging in from all over the globe and the interaction is always lively and fun. 

Although the virtual format allows students to participate from anywhere, one big disadvantage of virtual learning – you lose that “water cooler” effect, where people bump into each other to share ideas, collaborate across industries, and talk about things unrelated to work. Although those minor interactions might seem trivial, they can have a tremendous positive effect on overall class engagement and greatly enhance the learning experience. 

So at Sententia, we put in a concerted effort to create activities that help increase the bonding factors. One technique we use are About Me activities that we weave throughout our multi-hour learning experience. We believe it’s important that participants be allowed to give the group a representation of themselves, and to learn about their fellow classmates. In the Level 1 course the participants create their Legend

 

Even before social distancing, we were aware of the necessity of social interaction within eLearning programs. It turns out, we are born social creatures (with notable exceptions), and it is this interaction with others that begins our earliest learning processes. 

We are not born empty headed; instead, we are born with the capacity to understand the minds of other people. For instance, when shown smiling and fearful faces, newborns look longer at happy faces. Similarly, newborns prefer to look at people who make direct eye contact with them. And an even more interesting study showed that newborns looked longer at photographs of strangers who had previously spoken to them while looking at them directly. 

Gaze-following is important to learning. If I look at where you’re looking, I can learn about what is important to you and predict your intentions or next actions. Babies who do this between 6 and 12 months of age excel at language skills and social competence. In fact, one study suggest that newborns have this ability as young as two days old.   

Of course it doesn’t end in the few weeks or months after birth. We continue to learn from visual cues from others. Around the ages of three to five, we develop our consciousness and become aware of how others may view us. As we begin to clarify our identity we look to our group or community to build our self-identity.  

In early school years, we face our teachers, listening to them, and we interact with our peers as we intensify and broaden the learning experience. As time passes, of course, we develop different types of relationships with our teachers and we take on new sources of information, but at our core, we learn from the visual cues and interaction with have with someone’s face.  

Then came eLearning, and faces largely disappeared from the learning experience, especially in the early days since videos take a lot of memory not to mention time to produce. And having more than three or four people interacting on a screen can be distracting and eat up way too much band width.

We have noticed a mark difference in engagement by participants who are eager to share themselves with the group even when they are unlikely to ever meet in person. 

 

These virtual Legends help to build trust, increase the level of interactions in chats and discussions, and build a sense of a tribe or community. And there is certainly a sense of sadness as the end of the eLearning program nears.  

About Me activities are very simple to implement yet have a huge return on investment for you and your students. 

We’d love to hear your ideas on how you create community in your virtual learning sessions.

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